The Port Macquarie Astronomical Observatory will be developed into a new science and astronomy centre under bold new plans unveiled this week.
The observatory is on Rotary Park near Town Beach.
Port Macquarie Astronomical Association president David Edgerley said the new centre will provide for the future needs of the community and the group.
"We had originally planned to lodge a DA with council some months ago but we decided to take another look at our plans," he said.
"During that phase of discussion, we opted to change the position of the telescope and to provide some more meeting spaces.
"This is an aged building and we don't really have any choice other than to build a new centre," he said.
"We plan a science centre that includes static and tactile displays while in the long term we envisage housing experimental displays with the use of the latest technology."
Club member and one of the drivers behind the project Chris Ireland said the association was continually developing how best to fully utilise the new building.
"We have concept sketches of what we'd like to see included and will take that to King and Campbell (a Port Macquarie-based consultancy practice)," he said.
"We will also need to talk with council's heritage architect and perhaps undertake a history report of the site.
"But we are using, essentially, the same site."
The size of the new centre would be three and a half times bigger than the current site at 420 square metres.
The structure would be around 34 metres long and 15 metres wide. It will feature a six metre dome.
We'd estimate roughly $2.5m for the construction and around $1m for the complete fit-out.David Edgerley
While there are no costings for the construction phase or fit-out, Mr Edgerley indicated the new centre would cost around $3.5m.
"We'd estimate roughly $2.5m for the construction and around $1m for the complete fit-out," he added.
The dome would provide a 270 degree viewing point.
The association believes it needs to lodge a DA with council and be "shovel ready" in order to compete for prospective state or federal government grants.
Mr Edgerley said the association was ecstatic with the response from students during on-site tours.
"There has been an incredible level of interest from primary school and high school-aged students in recent time," he said.
"The students love the idea of our water rockets, the hands-on gravity visualiser, looking through telescopes and tours of the main telescope.
The students love the idea of our water rockets, the hands-on gravity visualiser, looking through telescopes and tours of the main telescope.David Edgerley
"Alongside that, we have seen a steady increase in growing our membership too.
"The main reaction is that people want to come back to see us again.
"We can make learning the sciences and astrology fun," he said.
"The observatory continues to pique people's interest."
Mr Ireland said the long term vision for the centre was to become a go-to place to visit for residents and students and tourists.
"The observatory is a very striking site and a real landmark in this precinct," he said.
The pair said the work on the new centre would be staged with a priority placed on building the telescope dome in the first instance.
They said state member Leslie Williams was "on board" with the project.
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