Norlane hub a symbol of community pride

March 13, 2023 BY

Norlane Community Initiatives co-director Simon Reeves and the newly opened Lab Square Commons. Photos: SUPPLIED. RIGHT: Norlane's new centre of ideas and community, the Lab Square Commons. Photos: SUPPLIED

AN URBAN renewal project at Norlane’s Labuan Square is gathering momentum with the doors now open to a community hub where people can connect over food, drink and ideas.

The Norlane Community Initiatives (NCI) Lab Square Commons is the latest project from the group that is dedicated to investing in the potential of the 3214 postcode, and co-director Simon Reeves said the shopfront is central to the vision.

Equipped with a coffee machine, tables and chairs, the versatile space is designed as an “incubation space” for community members to gather, discuss ideas and hold events.

“We’ve got a big map in the shop of Norlane so people can have a big picture look at the community and comment about what they see, like and want to see,” Mr Reeves said.

“There will be different interactive boards around the room so people can write their ideas and concepts… there will be tables for games and reading, a book library.”

Norlane’s new centre of ideas and community, the Lab Square Commons.

Mr Reeves said the space will be available to book at low cost by local residents and organisations looking to host meetings, or classes for yoga, art or music.

“And we’ll be running events throughout the year in the square with other shop owners.

A formal opening for the enterprise is expected in April, to coincide with the expected completion of the City of Greater Geelong’s revitalisation works of Labuan Square.

New benches and a water feature have already been installed, along with wi-fi and CCTV, and landscaping around pre-existing fruit trees are all designed to breathe new life into an area of Geelong that maintains some of the lowest socio-economic indicators.

Mr Reeves said he and local traders are feeling optimistic about the potential of the square that serves as Norlane’s main retail centre, but challenges do remain in the form of at least nine roller doors over shopfronts.
“Some have been empty for eight years,” he said.

“Unfortunately a lot of the people who own these shops have no incentive to rent them out an affordable rate.”

He is keen to point out that much progress has already been made thanks to the support of local government and business, including North Geelong estate agents Harcourts who helped identify who owned the shop NCI now occupy.

“They’ve been very supportive”, Mr Reeves said.

For more information or to volunteer with NCI, head to norlaneci.org.au