Archive | February 2013

REMEMBERING THE MECCA

mecca_flyer

mecca_flyer

So sad to see The once mighty Kogarah Mecca in this state. Please come along on Wednesday night and help bid farewell to a local icon.
Opened 1920 as the Victory Theatre. Demolished February 2013. R.I.P.

For further details on the theatre, click here.

For a blog with beautiful images of what still lies within the walls of the Mecca, click here.

The final curtain...

The final curtain…

Last glimpses of an icon.

Last glimpses of an icon.

mecca_banner

The sign says it all. They will pass the blame to NSW Planning but they did tick the DA approval box. It’s a combined failure.

Another day, another icon lost... Images Inheritance.

Another day, another icon lost… All images Inheritance.

72 years of history disappearing before our very eyes.

93 years of history disappearing before our very eyes.

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GRIFFITH HOUSE O’FARRELLED!

Late last year we looked at a proposal to demolish heritage listed Griffith House on the grounds of St George hospital, an elegant 1896 Italianate Villa of some historical significance, being the home of Peter Hermann, one of the founding fathers of not only St George Hospital in 1894 but also the Kogarah area fire station, and mayor of the Kogarah municipality. It is the only heritage asset remaining on the hospital campus, making it even more precious in its function of telling the story of this suburb’s history to future generations who will otherwise have nothing to replicate it and instead have to try and guess what the hospital may have looked like at its foundation.

After a bitter back door campaign that saw overwhelming public support for the retention and re-adaption of the two storey villa, approval has been swiftly granted by NSW Planning Minister Brad Hazzard, disregarding completely the aesthetic values of the building, the significant documented heritage and history of the building and its occupents, insufficiencies of the plan to deal with future parking and logistics issues both onsite and off, complete lack of public consultation and awareness, and a backlash of opposition ranging from hospital workers to former councillor and hospital board member Anne Field, to 70’s green bans legend Jack Mundey.

The speed and tenacity with which this approval passed through the planning system seems to indicate that it was a fate accompli even before opponents got wind of it. From simple little tricks like putting the public notice up on old canteen walls away from the general public, to denying press access to the ‘public’ meeting, this proposal and its deliverence were thrust upon unsuspecting residents as Anne Field told the Leader “like stealth in the night.”

To make matters conceivably worse, Griffith House is being removed to make way for nothing more than an entry ramp into the Hospital’s internal morgue and a few small car parks, all of which could be accommodated, quite easily, if the monstrosity eyesore building that is the Research and Animal testing building on Kensington Street was sacrificed, as it should be, instead of the irreplaceable beauty of Griffith House.

The architecturally sickening Research Building the hospital would rather retain. (???)

The architecturally sickening Research Building that the hospital would rather retain. (???)

At the closed ‘public discussion’, concerned opponents were told by Terry Clout, CEO of South East Sydney and Illawarra Area Health Service (SESIH), that 50 options were considered by the Health Dept, none of which allowed for the retention of Griffith House. Well, nobody present bought any of that, as all 50 options sounded fairly similar to one another, all leading to the claim that the adjacent ugly Research Centre couldn’t be moved at all, for reasons still unbeknown to anyone in the room apart from maybe the CEO himself. We all know Cherie Burton local MP was never going to get out of sorts but where was Kogarah Council during all this talk of destruction of perhaps the suburb’s most important architectural asset? Strangely, silent.

Considering the amount of heritage framework immediately surrounding the hospital including Peter Hermann’s 1907 Federation style fire house and the nearby 1887 Kogarah School of Arts, it is quite shameful on behalf of council that this area hasn’t been defined and publicized as a local heritage precinct offering quality point to point historical walks for locals and tourists alike. Here is a small gallery of just some of what lies within short reach of Griffith House. (all images by Inheritance)

 jogarah fire station1  jogarah fire station2 kogarah school of arts1kogarah school of arts2 kogarah heritage2kogarah heritage3 kogarah heritage1

This is an epic fail of the current planning system in this state, a system that fails to protect the heritage and now has set a precedent for destroying heritage buildings on public land, choosing instead to find the cheapest option available using bulldozers and fumbling PR spin in order to sell their inadaquecy. Fortunately the Kogarah public led by Anne Field saw right through and gave them a decent fight til the end, which, unfortunately, may well be upon us within a matter of weeks.

Surely a major part of any architectural briefing on a project of this scale and magnitude must include as one of its primary objectives to examine, assess and if possible retain any heritage aspects present on the site. By failing to consider the importance, value and public pride in Griffith House this project, no matter how great they tell us the redevelopment is at opening time and in years to come, will always be, at least in part, a massive failure. Why would the Department of Health sink 40 million dollars of taxpayers’ money into a project that is doomed to become a failure from the start, in its refusal to protect the core heritage values of the site.

Architecturally, it is hardly a challenging prospect considering the footprint of the new emergency wing only intersects with Griffith House over a couple of square metres, and conceptually, we are talking about a service road and parking area that could just as easily be moved to Kensington Street with the removal of the ugly Research building that nobody wants, that is the gold plated solution. There couldn’t be an easier alternative for the architects. What’s missing is the political will here, and the courage. The courage to create something that is a win-win-win outcome – something that delivers good value for taxpayers’ money, a world class facility, with full respect to heritage values… unfortunately this project fails on at least one, if not three of those objectives.

As a wash up of this disgusting mess, supporters of Griffith House, supporters of heritage in general, are going to gather on the lawns of Griffith House one last time this upcoming Sunday 24th February at 2pm. This will be a sombre affair, a chance to meet and talk over the events that led to this great house’s foreseeable demise, and the dire state of planning and heritage we now find ourselves in, in NSW 2013 under the leadership of this disgusting poor excuse for a government led by O’Farrell and Hazzard.

Griffith House, home of Peter Hermann, founding father of the municipality of Kogarah, the Kogarah Fire Station, and St George Hospital, you’ve been O’FARRELLED!

Please join us at Griffith House this Sunday 2pm.
PS. Also in Kogarah, if you are interested in remembering the once grand Kogarah Mecca Movie City, we are planning a candlelight farewell before the theatre is demolished, please email inheritance@tpg.com.au if you are interested ASAP.

URGENT: SAVE OUR HAMMERHEAD CRANE!

The federal government and Department of Defence are putting forth an ultimatum to scrap Sydney Harbour’s disused Hammerhead Crane at Garden Island on defence land, citing high upkeep costs and safety concerns as the major issues.

The crane, opened in 1951, rises a lofty 61 metres over the harbour and makes a spectacular backdrop to the Royal Botanic Gardens and Woolloomooloo. It is the largest dock crane in Australia and one of only 15 still in existence worldwide built to service ships of the Royal British Navy.  Five others in Scotland have been awarded the highest heritage protection. It is a tangible reminder of our naval and industrial links with England and the British empire. At the time it was the largest crane in the southern hemisphere. Cranes such as this have even been turned into tourist attractions elsewhere in the world. It has been classified by the National Trust as one of our nation’s top ten heritage items at risk, a concern that has proven quite valid now as the federal govt. push is on to scrap this towering icon, simply to save the ongoing maintenance costs currently estimated at $770 000 per year, however Graham Quint of the National Trust believes this figure would be greatly reduced if the crane were properly assessed, conserved and maintained, rather than being left to rot away.

Andrew Woodhouse, president of the Potts Point & Kings Cross Heritage Society has stated “It does not cost $770,000 per year to maintain as claimed by Defence. In fact, this figure is all that’s been spent on it in over 50 years as far as we can see and includes costs for consultants and the enquiry.” A letter from David Feeney, Parliamentary Secretary for Defence, dated 29th November 2012 seems to back this up, quoting $770,836 in maintenance costs over the financial year 2011-12 only.

The crane also falls within the 2.5km radius of the world heritage listed Sydney opera House buffer zone, an area that was set up under the Sydney Regional Environmental Plan (SRPE) to allow protection for the world heritage listed building, and, according to the Heritage Impact Statement by Godden Mackay Logan, “to recognise that views and vistas between the Opera House and other public spaces within that zone contribute to its world heritage value.” The removal of the hammerhead crane would significantly alter views from several vantage points around the harbour, diminishing the harbour’s heritage values as a whole, and affecting considerably the standing relationship between the Harbour Bridge, the Opera House and Garden Island, thereby contravening the SRPE to the highest level. If this is to be broken then why have an SRPE at all?

Heritage Impact assessment photos, before and after, Goldan Mackay Logan

Heritage Impact assessment photos, before and after, Goldan Mackay Logan

Heritage Impact assessment photos, before and after, Goldan Mackay Logan

Heritage Impact assessment photos, before and after, Goldan Mackay Logan

In addition, heritage consultants Godden Mackay Logan conclude in their heritage impact statement that “the removal of the hammerhead crane will have a significant impact on the historic heritage environment of the Garden Island Precinct. The removal of the hammerhaed crane will be irreversible, changing the skyline of Sydney by removing an historic element which has been in place since its construction commenced in 1944 and use in 1951.” Considering the Garden Island precinct is a location strewn with heritage buildings, it would be of benefit to the people of Sydney to remain in the short term as a working naval heritage precinct and in the longer term become open to the public in the fashion of Cockatoo Island, which is a wildly successful precinct of similar standards and now a big drawcard for festivals and art events as well as heritage tourism. And a major asset to the city of Sydney.

So why are we so desperate to rid our shores of this iconic, working harbour link to our Naval industrial past? Perhaps it’s the “old is bad and new is good” mindset we seem to have developed here in Australia over the decades that allows new development to go ahead unabated with scant regard for any form of heritage no matter how big or small. Perhaps it’s the influx of dollars transforming our little harbour into a millionaires’ playground that leaves no place for such a rusting hulk of iron even as a historical monument or throwback to times when we weren’t accustomed to lives as prosperous or luxurious as the ones we find ourselves in today. It’s almost with an air of shame that the words ‘working harbour’ are uttered nowadays. Perhaps it’s to make way for the big cruise ships bringing in thousands of tourist dollars every season that PM Julia Gillard so recently announced would gain access to Garden Island as a second passenger terminal for Sydney. And how the tourist industry rejoiced at the idea, while my first thought was ” I wonder how much industrial heritage will suffer on the docks as a result?”

Maybe this could have been avoided if Barangaroo stayed as it should have, a second passenger cruise ship dock, rather than being turned into high-rise condos for the rich and Packer’s Sydney casino licence holy grail. Remember when Bob Carr promised the land at Barangaroo would be opened to the public and that in the near future Sydney would be blessed with another iconic structure, along the lines of the Opera House or Harbour Bridge, something truly great… And what are we getting, Bob? Well, a lot of high-rise, another casino and as a result of giving away all that precious waterfront ‘public’ land yes, we are LOSING a harbour icon here, Bob, not gaining one. That’s an unfortunate outcome that would make me deeply ashamed of our city and its role as custodian to our maritime industrial heritage.

Image by Inheritance

Image by Inheritance

At least we can be grateful that we get the right of public submission, as even that is becoming a thing of the past for certain levels of government. So, you have until Monday 18th February to get it in. Follow this link, share it with your friends, spread the news, let’s save an icon or be damned forever for not trying. This one runs parallels with our world famous Harbour Bridge, and would we pull that down for the sake of saving a few hundred thousand dollars a year in maintenance costs from a defence budget of, oh I don’t know, gazillions? (26 billion to be precise, but you get the point). In any event it should be coming from a separate heritage protection budget, as the Defence budget clearly has a conflict of interest here.

This issue has not only national but international significance. It will be sorely missed from our city’s skyline. Don’t allow it to happen.

National Trust site link here.

Quick link to writing a submission here.
It takes one minute, please make the small effort.

Main image by Inheritance. P.S. I took a walk around Mrs Macquaries Point to take a few photos of the condemned crane and happened to have some visiting relatives with me from Europe. I asked what they thought of the crane… “I’ve never seen anything like it. They want to get rid of it?” was the reply.

THE BATTLE FOR NEWCASTLE CITY

The citizens of Newcastle NSW are being taken for a ride. Or rather, they’re not being taken for a ride, at least not a train ride anyway. The O’Farrell Government recently approved a move to cut the railway line at Wickham, eliminating the Newcastle Central terminus thereby freeing up a considerable stretch of near waterfront railway land for possible open space or private development, depending on how much spin you are willing to swallow. Following the recent success of land sales of Honeysuckle Wharf precincts the developers have had their eyes on larger chunks of Newcastle, from the CBD to beachside areas and now the holy grail, the city’s railway. It seems nothing is sacred anymore.

In what should be considered a great loss of infrastructure and a blow to public transport options in the city, especially for out of town commuters who now look at the possibility of ending a long train ride with a lengthy wait for buses to come along and ferry them to the CBD or city beaches, this state government hasn’t hesitated in approving cutting the city’s rail artery in favour of possible land redevelopment. And outside of the decision they are not giving much away in the way of prospective transport options. Really, only a light rail or tram option would suffice in place of the crippled train line, but that seems highly unlikely.

Planning Minister Brad Hazzard claims the rail land will remain in public ownership, although, as reported by the ABC, he wouldn’t rule out the government considering a “brilliant idea” in the future from a developer. Others are far more skeptical. Save Our Rail has been campaigning to keep the railway line and Newcastle stations over several years. Joan Dawson, the group’s president, says the government only held one public consultation, and most of the people present were totally against the plan. “There’s no way that that valuable land will be left sitting there for public use,” she believes.

Newcastle Station. Soon to become a thing of the past.

Newcastle Station. Soon to become a thing of the past.

Redevelopment of the Newcastle CBD adjacent to the railway has been on the radar for some time already, with developer GPT buying most of the buildings in the Hunter Street mall several years ago, meanwhile threatening that their proposed shopping plaza style redevelopment wouldn’t work without access to the land currently occupied by the dreaded railway. And yes, they did partially pull out from their $600 million deal when they didn’t see eye to eye over the railway land with the former state government, selling off two thirds of the retail buildings they own in the mall to, guess who , Barry O’Farell’s state govt. development body Landcom. Now a massive area of city land bound by Perkins, King, Newcomen and Hunter streets is on the menu for redevelopment or as Barry chooses to sell it, ‘urban renewal’.

Many if not most of these buildings in the mall have significant heritage value, from the ornate Victorian warehouses to Art Deco shopping arcades, and under Landcom/GPT’s proposed redevelopment, and the state government’s policy of buyout, are now at serious threat of being bulldozed. Being wholly owned by GPT and the state government doesn’t bode well for these historic buildings, nor the picturesque mall as a whole. David Jones closed its store recently and many of the grand old buildings of yesteryear have suffered from neglect as developer forces argue out how their grand shopping/residential wedding cake should take shape. How many stories perhaps, or how much glass and concrete they can utilise in just one mall.

The cutting of the rail line and the purchase of the Hunter Street mall land by the state Government signifies a step in the direction of mega-development; People of Newcastle, you’ve been warned, this has been looming for years. Will you let them destroy your beautiful heritage precincts for a short sighted burst of greedy monotonous overdevelopment? I for one feel Newcastle is too precious a beauty to bulldoze and ruin in that way. The fact that one massive developer together with Barry O’Farrell is about to decide the fate of how your city will look, to concrete over your main heritage mall, and now, to cut your rail line and turn your main terminus station into history (and possible highrise) to me is almost beyond belief. Are we at the stage now where developers decide how your city will look, shop, live and travel? It seems so.

All this just as post-industrial Newcastle itself is starting to find its vibe. The streets are coming alive to a more cosmopolitan feel, cool cafes and shops are starting to spring up, the buildings are once again being occupied, change is in the air, set to the background of a wonderful working harbour and heritage tapestry of architecture.

Renew Newcastle has done an exemplary job of moving artists and creative merchants into dormant building niches, such as the former David Jones, in a scheme of grass roots urban renewal that is now being replicated in cities such as Geelong and Adelaide. A short stroll through Hunter Street and around will tell you Newcastle has got a lot going for it – the harbour, the heritage, the beaches, the weather, the topography, the transport, and now an arts scene coming to fruition. It’s a unique place that deserves state protection and sensitive heritage-flavoured development, NOT overdevelopment. I have always found it fitting that the train line and port both seem to converge at the edge of the CBD, that will now come to an end. And as for alternative transport options, many of the roadside carspaces along that side of the city lay abandoned even on weekends due to exhorbitent parking meter prices charged by greedy city councils – will that change once the rail is gone? I doubt it.

To lose your main city railway station is one thing, and a big thing at that, especially for the many people who depend on rail transport as the most efficient means of getting into town. To lose your open, leafy, airy, unique heritage shopping mall to make way for a Westfield style air-conditioned mono development would be a travesty for Newcastle. I hope to never see that day.

Links to Save Our Rail and Renew Newcastle.

Images below show some of the heritage buildings of Hunter Street Mall that may be at risk under redevelopment plans. All these buildings need protection. Interior shots are of Renew Newcastle’s Emporium artisan merchant shops. All Images copyright by Inheritance.

DSC03066 DSC03064 DSC03059 DSC03056 DSC03053 DSC03052 DSC03051 DSC03048 DSC03047 DSC03046 DSC03043 DSC03040 DSC03038 DSC03035 DSC03034 DSC03031 DSC03029 DSC03024 DSC03021