Relocation of Launceston's iconic automobile museum one step closer with development application lodged

The plan to move and expand Tasmania’s National Automobile Museum in Launceston is one step closer.

A development application for the construction of the museum at its proposed new site in Lindsay Street was advertised on Wednesday.

The iconic museum will move from its current home on the corner of Willis and Cimitiere streets to a newly-built facility behind Officeworks and across the road from the Silo Hotel.

The relocation will allow room for the University of Tasmania’s $260-million Willis Street campus plan.

The site plan for the Lindsay Street museum reveals a nearly 2000 square metre, one level building with two new car parks, including 52 individual spaces and disability access.

Site plan for new automobile museum at Lindsay Street.

Site plan for new automobile museum at Lindsay Street.

The current museum has been at the same site for more than two decades.

It was originally established by Geoff Smedley in 1987 as a private museum at the Waverley Woollen Mills site in George Street, before becoming a not-for-profit operation.

About 24,000 people visit the museum each year, which is home to about 100 historic cars and motorcycles. 

Museum manager Phil Costello said the current site had been the perfect fit, but circumstances had changed due to the university relocation.

National Automobile Museum of Tasmania director Phil Costello.

National Automobile Museum of Tasmania director Phil Costello.

“There’s probably no better place in Launceston than where we are now, but in the future that’s not going to be the case,” he said.

“We have been very successful in this location, we have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars into the building. 

“It’s unfortunate we have to leave it behind, but we look at it now as a new chapter.

“I’m very positive about where we’re going, we will be able to feed off the surrounding businesses.”

While he said the new building would come with new challenges, it would also create greater access to the exhibits.

“There will be full disability access, which will be a great benefit,” he said.

“Having just one level will also be good operationally, moving cars in and out.”

As for the future of the current building, Mr Costello said it was out of their hands.

“That will be up to the university, but it would be a shame to see it just demolished,” he said.

Fellow motoring enthusiast and Launceston Motor Show director Graeme Page described the museum as one of the city’s “success stories”.

“I give a lot of credit to the way they run things,” he said.

“From a local point of view, talking tourism, these sorts of places are very well patronised.”

Mr Page said Tasmania was “punching above its weight” with vehicle ownership.

“I think as we move to electrics and different types of motor vehicles, it’s so important to protect our heritage,” he said.

“We do a lot to protect our buildings, but restoring cars is something individuals do, we don’t ask the government to put money into restoring motor vehicles and it’s something that keeps a lot of people in retirement age active.”

It is expected the museum will be operating from its new site by late 2018 or early 2019.