Posted by & filed under Inner West Independent.

The future of the Italian Forum Cultural Centre, including its state of the art theatre, is still under a cloud following another legal battle.

Administrators SV Partners have secured an injunction against Leichhardt Council in a bid to prevent the sale of the Italian Forum Cultural Centre to Italian non-profit Co.As.It.
Documents obtained by the Inner West Independent show SV Partners on behalf of Italian Forum Ltd successfully obtained the restraining orders from the Supreme Court of New South Wales on June 2.
Under the orders, the council is restrained from dealing with the centre in any way, including appointing a new receiver to the property.
Councillors unanimously resolved on May 27 SV Partners was to sell the centre to Co.As.It by June 2, otherwise the council was to appoint its own receivers.
However, the court order has effectively rendered the motion void until the case returns to court in mid-June.
SV Partners executive director Stephen Hathway said the council had no power to force him to sell the centre to Co.As.It as it was the lowest bidder at $2.6 million.
“Creditors have overwhelmingly been telling me that they want the best outcome and the best outcome is the highest price and the best usage of this facility,” Mr Hathway said.
Glorious Gospel Church and the Australian Institute for Chamber Music have lodged two superior bids. The bid by the church is believed to be valued at $2.7 million while the bid by the institute is estimated to be just below. However, councillors rejected both bids in their latest meeting.
The council received a letter before the injunction on May 31 from the Building Management Committee of the centre asking the council to reconsider its motion.
The letter spoke about the decision not being in the interests of the “long-term regeneration and viability of the forum” in the eyes of the businesses, residents and car park operators which represent the strata groups.
“While we have the greatest respect for Co.As.It’s activities, no new population for the forum will be attracted nor generated,’’ the letter said.
‘’We understand Co.As.It has stated they are not interested in the renewal of either the cultural centre nor the piazza; it does not possess the expertise in the promotion and marketing of cultural events.’’
Co.As.It general manager Thomas Camporeale said the Italian-Australian community group has no commercial interest or any relevant experience in developing cultural events.
However, plans by Co.As.It for a “seniors precinct” and Italian classes on the site will comply with the cultural covenant, Mr Camporeale said.
“The centre was a gift to the Italian community. We will choose to move some of our classes here, but we will make the space available for community groups in the spirit of the original DA.’’
Actors Centre Australia occupies part of the building for its acting classes. Actors Centre executive director Dean Carey said Co.As.It will not be able to meet the rising costs of maintaining all aspects of the cultural centre with its plans. A partnership with a superior bidder like GGC would ensure more than 1200 people per week will visit and use the facility, Mr Carey said.
“The building isn’t for someone to move into, the building is for someone to move into and look after and support and ignite and for every bit of its capabilities [to] exceed expectations.’’
Leichhardt Council has declined to comment further. However, Mayor Darcy Byrne said in a statement on May 29 selling the centre to Co.As.It is the right choice as it secures the future of the facility for the Italian-Australian community in Norton St.
“Council has continually acted in good faith to recoup ratepayers’ costs and as well as trying to prevent this unique space being privatised,” Mr Byrne said.
The case is expected to return to court on June 16.