There is a renowned heritage street in Bexley that holds many a fine residence… Victorian, Federation, Bungalow, Art Deco… a walk down Dunmore Street North is like stepping back in time. Bookended by classic main street shopfronts and churches up on Forest Road, down to the state heritage listed Seaforth Park at the lower end, the street and suburb it occupies are home to many splendid gardens as well, some immaculately pruned and tended, and some, let’s just say, a little rougher around the edges.
Look carefully at the jungle growing on a block at 26 Dunmore Street North. Between the trees and shadows you will find a hidden Federation masterpiece, waiting to be uncovered and have new life breathed back into it, like a dusty Rembrandt sitting unknown at the back of a museum storeroom. This house is ripe for renovation, and in the afternoon light stunning period features still shine and give away a hint of the extravagance waiting to be uncovered and brought back to their timeless beauty by someone with a keen eye for what constitutes smart ‘forward thinking’ real estate value and a worthy investment. Bullseye leadlight windows, turquoise Art Nouveau tiling, patterned brick archways, delicate balcony timber fretwork, this house has all the wonderful features of the period.
Federation homes were exceptional in their level of embellishment, quality of workmanship and attention to detail, as well as giving us our own national style of architecture; those on corner blocks were even more impressive as they were always built to suit the site, facing two directions to greet the outside world and often taking advantage of winter sun flooding through bay windows, while maintaining an air of coolness in summer with deep and richly decorated porches.
That’s the end of my real estate agent spiel; it may not be along the lines the agents are pushing this time, considering the land size of 1,176sqm lends itself to perhaps something of a different scale. As quoted from the Domain website by agents Raine and Horne:
*Original 4 bedroom federation full brick home in need of TLC
*Potential for Developement (STCA)
*Situated on a corner position
*Level clear block of land
*Approx 23.4 metre frontage X Approx 50.2 length
*Family orientated area, with excellent schools, transportation, and ease of access to Bexley shopping village.
Will be sold at Auction!!”
A few years ago a corner parcel came up for sale with a similar unloved Federation home at the bottom of the street. What happened next was a little strange. Residents at the time were concerned for the streetscape and lobbied for the new owners to retain the house. It didn’t stand for long, and was levelled and replaced by a large gaudy modern home ‘in the Federation style’, complete with sandstone foundations and stained glass. Why anyone would demolish a Federation house to build a Faux-Federation I don’t know but the trend has spread next door to where an almost identical building has sprung up.
Don’t let the developers get this one. The street is too picturesque and historically revealing to be ruined by duplexes. Any astute heritage buyers, this is the one for you. For sale by auction, Saturday 1st June. Be quick…
Click on images below to enlarge gallery…
The suburb of Hurstville in southern Sydney has long been a place of change. From transport hub to shopping megalopolis to high rise residential, the city hasn’t been spared the throng of development engulfing many centres around metropolitan Sydney. But Forest Road, the busy main thoroughfare lined with Asian eateries and grocery markets, still retains glimpses of architectural charm.
I enjoy a stroll along the bustling strip, now clearly influenced by a generation of Chinese migrants. Here you will stumble across butchers selling budget chops, rock star Vietnamese bakeries peddling pork rolls to the masses, Bok choy and Choy sum falling out of little boxes outside grocery stores, golden roast duck hanging gloriously from shopfront windows, noodle and dumpling bars exuding sweet aromas. And as its backdrop, a charming mixmatch of Victorian and Federation style shopfronts and art deco facades, even an early underground shopping arcade linking Forest Road to nearby Westfields, rumoured to be the first outside the Sydney CBD.
The place is a hive of activity, a successful working class migrant story, and it oozes an air of Oriental resourcefulness and prosperity. It’s good to see the Chinese community interact on Forest Road, the way they meet, the way they banter and communicate with one another. Elders are respected and their company is relished. You see it anywhere people of Asian backgrounds congregate. I believe westerners can learn from this sense of social connectivity on show.
But drastic change is once again in the air. A backflipping council, who previously claimed they would keep the CBD residential-free, now has big publicized development plans on the agenda. This is already taking shape along the northern stretch of Forest Road, just along from that massive former Amcor factory development, at 127-141 Forest Road, where a gaping hole has recently appeared and swallowed up a row of little shops and restaurants.
One of these shops was the Chinese grocer occupying Advance House, formerly known as Swans Hardware, a distinctive Art Deco warehouse that has been on the redevelopment radar for some time. There was a legal stoush between architect-developer Nick Katris (who also happens to be a Kogarah councillor) and Hurstville Council, which ended up in the Land and Environment Court. Katris and Associates lodged the original DA with no intention of keeping Advance House in any shape or form, but met an obstacle when Hurstville council’s heritage advisor, Graham Brooks, nominated retention of the Art Deco facade, being a listed item under Hurstville’s LEP. According to the court judgment, ‘Mr Brooks considered that there was an inherent conflict between the heritage listing in LEP 1994 and the site specific controls in the DCP, which permit large scale redevelopment that may overwhelm the retained element.’
At least they have left the façade for posterity, although far from acceptable, it’s better than nothing. It is only a wall after all, is that any substitute for a true heritage building?
Further along, opposite the railway entrance sits the Stokland (former Fosseys) building, a landmark example of an early department store, and quite an elegant example of its type. This council-owned building is now for sale, under a profit taking scheme to bulldoze and replace it with a small park standing over several new levels of underground shopping (that must be a first for modern-day planners; you can have a park, but it needs to make money, there needs to be a shopping centre beneath it!). The existing historic arcade is also at risk.
Hurstville Council, under pressure from the NSW planning department, now appears intent on bulldozing much more of Hurstville’s historic main street. Now it’s been revealed that village centres Riverwood, Peakhurst, and Penshurst won’t be spared either under new zonings set by Minister Hazzard, despite Hurstville Council trying to ‘funnel’ high rise into the CBD. How much will survive now that high rise development will be allowed to encroach into Forest Road and other centres. Many of these buildings are over 100 years old, in essence, an ‘old town’ streetscape that should be retained and protected rather than turned into glass and concrete high-rise.
There is nothing more soulless than new glass shopfronts supporting multi-storey units. Many of us prefer the rambling, human scaled, colourful, sometimes crumbling shopfronts of a Hong Kong style market, where street life abounds and takes on a meaning of its own. This won’t be the case with new mega-development from architect firms such as Katris and Associates, swallowing up any heritage, any vibrant colour that now exists on the Forest Road strip; heritage that has evolved over time to take on new generations, and suit their needs, and provide all that is required for a healthy shopping precinct to exist into the future.
Something is happening in the Sutherland Shire, something big, and getting bigger, something that will change the lifestyle of residents forever…
The new Liberal dominated council hasn’t been long in unleashing its plans for a bigger shire, one that perpetuates a lot more high-rise, a lot more units, a lot more subdivision of residential lots, loss of green space, and scant regard for heritage values…
In their first few months already they have released a draft LEP that proposes to change the required zoning of suburban blocks to allow many more duplexes to be built. Already they’ve handed over two large swathes of the shire at Sutherland-Loftus and Caringbah-Miranda to the state government’s urban activation program somehow forgetting to consult with their ratepayers in the process. Already they’ve announced a further 5,500 additional high rise dwellings. Already they’ve up’d the zoning of Cronulla mall to allow six storeys of development in what is essentially currently a one and two storey heritage precinct. Aleady they’ve set new townhouse height limits up to three stories. Already they’ve allowed single residential lots to be individually redeveloped as units, increased building heights and floor space ratios for units and set 4 stories as minimum, 8 stories preferred. Already they’ve lowered the minimum green space requirement on lots from 40-50% to 25-30%. Already they’ve increased floor space ratios in low density areas to accommodate much larger houses with no backyards. And recently, they’ve announced that they will demolish rather than restore a historic house of the Thomas Holt estate (one of the shire’s first settlements) that previous councils had allowed for and actually purchased in years gone past with the aim of restoration (more on this story soon… yes Mayor Kent Johns, just for you). And already a Save our Shire resident group has been formed in response to what they rightfully see as an attack on their treasured lifestyle, a beachside lifestyle that is known to be relaxed and easy going. And if you live in the fabled shire, you should react too, because I take it on good information that within a few years the shire may not look anything like it currently does, and that should cause concern, if not panic, for those of you who want to retain your lifestyle as it is. This is so clearly a developer friendly council and combined with Brad Hazzard’s developer friendly planning reforms we are in real trouble as a community if we stand by and watch idly. You have only until 1st May to respond, so get busy!
This one makes me laugh… On Geralle Street, between South Cronulla beach and the mall, is a building site for the proposed Breeze development, pictured above. This two story small block is being bulldozed to make way for an over-sized nine storey block of units … What’s comical is the digital images on the safety fence curtains, and on the website, showing iconic images of the shire as it was in days gone by and indeed as it still is to some extent. Blonde haired surfers hanging out at the wall with longboards, wood panelled cars parked outside red brick buildings, you know…the very images of Cronulla that this kind of development is doing its best to quickly crush! So they are advertising the very things that they are bringing to ruin! Now that would be extremely funny, if it wasn’t so serious…
The recent redevelopment of the old library and church on Surf Road was a wake up call… I’m not a ‘shirey’ but I wrote letters to the council fearing the worst. The vintage wood interiors were lost but luckily at least the structure of the twin roofed building was maintained and adapted for use as a trendy restaurant, rather than being bulldozed to rubble.
And that’s all we ask of planners, to adapt and re-use existing heritage buildings rather than smash to pieces, thereby retaining a heritage ‘look’ and communal value, while also keeping our suburbs to what I term ‘human scale’, and a measure of respect to the way these places were designed to look by our forefathers, before developer greed swept in like a tidal wave. Without this thought it won’t take long for Cronulla to look like the Gold Coast, or much worse, and is that what the residents really want? Not the ones I talk to.
Click Save Our Shire webpage here.
This gallery contains 10 photos.
On Wednesday night, 27 February 2013, a small group of dedicated locals and heritage activists gathered by candlelight opposite the old Mecca theatre site at Kogarah. We shared Fantales and choc tops, listened to tones of the original Christie 2/7 Victory theatre organ “broadcasting from the wilds of Kogarah” and showed poster billboards of The […]
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.
2012 was a big year for Barry O’Farrell. He and his state government were busy wielding the axe through various tiers of public services and government agencies causing grief and carnage wherever they struck, from education to health to emergency services. He also had big development plans for the state on the agenda that many of us didn’t see coming, as he swept into office on the promise of ‘giving planning powers back to the people.’ What a lie that has turned out to be. On this point alone he has failed miserably, as 2013 looks to become a year of even more broken promises, even more bloodshed, even more breakdown of our state’s core functioning values as this greedy, dangerous, thick sculled premier leaves a trail of destruction wherever he goes… Watch out NSW – You’re still being O’FARRELLED!
Yes Barry would like to wish us all a happy new year. But a word of advice… Just be careful if you intend spending part of your summer walking through some of our beautiful National Parks… you may just get shot at by some of the many shooters that Barry has allowed into our wilderness areas as they mistake your silhouette for that of a stray animal. He passed legislation in a deal with the Shooters and Fishers party allowing him to sell off our electricity infrastructure in exchange for access to the parks. Since then its been revealed that ”this decision would annihilate current rules around wildlife management in NSW and significantly curtail the ability for [National Parks and Wildlife Service] to manage lands reserved under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974,” according to leaked advisory notes drafted within the former Environment department.
One Sally Barnes, the former head of the National Parks and Wildlife Service, who is linked to the notes, is now the chief executive of the Office of Environment and Heritage overseeing the move to allow hunting in parks. The notes also asked ”We are trying to open up parks to visitors – how can this be compatible?… NSW has a balanced approach with hunting allowed in state forests and on private land. If NSW wishes to be the Green State why would NSW be the first state to move to allowing hunting in national parks?” It has also been revealed that two key officials involved with the move, the Game Council’s chief executive Greg McFarland and Andrew Mallen are themselves under investigation for illegal hunting practices, trespassing, and the inhumane killing of a feral goat last month. Now that is a great example for other hunters to follow.
And if the shooters don’t cause enough damage to our ever increasingly fragile ‘protected’ ecosystems, then the grazers just might, as Barry and co have allowed trial grazing to go ahead within National Parks too. And ducks are under fire, those dreaded webbed toed vermin that they are. They have to be eradicated, so Barry has reintroduced duck hunting to appease his political comrades the Shooters.
Even our underwater friends won’t be safe, especially if you’re a critically endangered grey nurse shark. You’ve been O’FARRELLED! too, your habitat protection sites have been revoked at Bass Point and reduced elsewhere at Green Island and Magic point, in a deal that opens up these areas to more recreational fishing at a time when most countries around the world are trying to add to maritime protection zones, not take them away.
Of course sharks aren’t the only ones in trouble down on the waterfront. The closure of a world class fisheries research centre at Cronulla sees no reprieve despite extensive political and scientific lobbying on many fronts including that of Fred Nile. It’s been well and truly O’FARRELLED! It will be closed, and now there is talk that the heritage listed adjoining pool may be lost too, as its purpose is now diminished, according to a heritage advisor enlisted by, you guessed it, Barry O’Farrell.
It’s quite clear he doesn’t really give a toss for the environment, our Barry. Late last year he axed nine green schemes including Green Business Grants, Renewable Energy Development Grants, Schools Energy Efficiency Grants, Hybrid bus trials and the Fleetwise program aimed at reducing emissions from company vehicles. These cuts were claimed by Barry to reduce household power bills, however according to Greens MP John Kaye “the Green schemes have only driven up power prices by about $76 over the last five years, compared to the almost $700 added by wires and poles investments.” This comes after the governments scrapping of solar panel rebates not long after they came to power. But on another front, O’Farrell was quick to point the finger at the federal govt after the PM walked away from a deal that would hand environmental decision making to the states, claiming ”It’s clear the Prime Minister caved in. She blinked to pressure from the green groups who wrongly characterised this as a watering down of environmental standards.” Watching Barry’s view on ‘environmental standards’ unfold now its clearly better he was given as little environmental power as possible.
But if you think he’s just a mean spirited and heartless political hard case, well that’s just not true. Our man Barry shows absolutely no hostility to the gas and coal mining industry, as we have recently seen. He has basically allowed coal seam gas exploration and drilling to go ahead practically anywhere in the state, and many gas drillers are already taking advantage of his generosity. Directly after passing CSG legislation across NSW, 22 licenses were renewed, now that’s a lot of mining money riding on that one decision, is it any wonder it was rushed through? A ban on the controversial ‘fracking’ technique of extraction was also lifted. It’s just an afterthought that residents of Camden and South Western Sydney are a little angry having recently bought land and not being told any news that AGL would be drilling 66 gas wells right under their new neighbourhoods. Or the fact that the environmental effects of coal seam gas drilling are widely documented to cause irreversible damage to water aquifers and extensive ground contamination, not to mention surface methane leaks or cracking of surface stone such as the sandstone plateaus in western NSW which are now showing cracks throughout as a result of nearby gas seam exploration, or the countless irreplaceable millennia-old Aboriginal rock paintings and carvings throughout the state which are now at serious risk.
“The O’Farrell government has recklessly given these coal seam gas companies the green light to renew their exploration licences despite a record in NSW of toxic coal seam gas water spills, community opposition and regulatory failures,” said Prue Bodsworth of the Wilderness Society. “By offering these licence renewals, 21.3% of the State will be covered by coal seam gas exploration, which is far too high considering the massive risks to our food-producing land, water catchments and health. O’Farrell has now actively opened up over five million hectares for coal seam gas mining, putting a dark cloud of gas drilling over millions of NSW residents and our most special natural areas and waterways.”
And its not just the mining industry Barry is cosily happy with. The developer lobby has a special place in Barry’s heart too, he has bent over backwards to make sure our state makes them feel at home. This is the year Barry’s magical planning white paper comes to fruition, basically turning all planning rules and residential zoning on its head. Barry’s rebadged planning body, Urbangrowth NSW, headed by former party leader John Brogden, has been given universal power to determine future growth areas of development with the input of developers, and has already carved up large chunks of Sydney and surrounds for high growth development. Urbangrowth will have the powers of compulsory acquisition, removal of regulatory barriers (‘red tape’) to speed up development, as well as access to surplus government land. Councils are to be bypassed, in fact, residents won’t have a say against these multi-story high density developments sweeping across their neighbourhoods provided they pass the certain ‘criteria’. You won’t even know that a development is going up next door until the concrete starts drying.
And with Urbangrowth NSW now running the show in cohorts with developer groups, don’t expect the suburbs you live in to look anything like they do now in another couple of years. “Take note of the name of the Housing Supply Sub Committee of Cabinet” said Brogden. It was called “not housing sustainability, not housing affordability – but housing supply”.
And its not just about fast tracking of developments in predetermined growth zones either, don’t think old inner city terrace suburbs such as Paddington or Woollahra will be spared. Legislation has just been passed allowing owners to now bypass local Development Control Plans, effectively taking away any protection of how these suburbs will remain, and allowing developers to bulldoze or alter heritage homes if they prove to be increasing housing supply. ”DCPs are the fine-grained controls that protect local communities from inappropriate development,” says David Shoebridge, Greens MP. ”This government intends to gut them.”
Heritage consultant David Logan, who worked on DCPs in eastern Sydney is also critical. ”Someone only has to say: ‘look, I’m providing more housing than you currently get in existing terraces in Paddington’ and the consent authority would be really hard pressed to keep those existing buildings [under the proposed changes],”he said. So I guess, landowners and ratepayers, and anyone else who likes to live in or even look at genuine heritage neighbourhoods, you too have been O’FARRELLED!
But it gets worse. Under new strata laws proposed, if you live in an apartment, for example a nice art deco unit block with a garden, and you are quite happy to stay there, so long as 75 percent of the owners agree to sell to a developer (remember that’s only three out of four owners), you won’t have a say, you will be forced to sell, removed from the equation. Can you just imagine developers eyeing off all of those ‘underutilised’ brick apartments across Sydney, and starting to put pressure on owners to sell so they can increase the heights and densities returning the favour to our man Barry. Now it’s beginning to sound a bit like communist China.
Speaking of China, Barry is trying to attract cashed up investors from that part of the world by offering fast tracked visas for big investors under his new 188 and 888 Significant Investor Visa program, allowing anyone who invests $A5 million into the NSW economy not only to gain a visa for themselves, but allow their family to ether via the express lane. ‘Investment’ includes such forms as real estate, bonds, even cash. So in other words, someone from China says, “Hey Barry, I’ve got 5 million to put in your bank, or I’ve got 5 million to build a highrise here in Sydney,” that will do the trick. No language requirements, just show them the money and you get your family ticket. Now that is democracy at work. (for the rich).
But as private investment is ramped up and the coal seam gas and land grab continues at breakneck speed, funding from his own departments seem to have mysteriously dried up. Planned art gallery expansions in both Newcastle and Albury have both had the plug pulled by Barry O’Farrell, leaving the councils of those cities to bridge the gaping holes in financing themselves. The proposed expansion at Albury is now at risk as council weighs up the costs of funding it alone. TAFE and university course funding has been cut to regional centres as well, forcing courses to close and pushing students in those centres to go online in order to complete their studies.
The interesting thing with Barry is that he is willing to do whatever it takes to grow the state with private investment and high-rise development, while at the same time cutting back on all the basic governmental services that a growing community needs – health, education, policing etc. We are heading towards a Chinese style direction of high density urbanisation, and in return we are losing our own standards of living, our heritage, our way of life, the right to determine our own planning controls and standards.
2013 will be another big year for the growing list of epic failures for Barry O’Farrell. I have no doubt the voters will punish him the next time an election comes around, the question is, how much damage can he do during his term in office, and how will our cities and our state look by then. Heritage is not something that can be replaced with a change of government. What we are talking about here is a dangerous and reckless premier and government. Even if they serve only one term in office they have unconditional potential to cause irreversible damage to the environment, our heritage, our levels of public service and amenity, and our standard of living in general. Never before has NSW seen such a dictatorship government so intent on working together with developer and mining groups to the unvoiced detriment of everyone else.
It’s not too late, there is a lot we can all do to stop this absurdity. The planning white paper is at being released in February, so write a letter or email to the office telling them you disagree with the powers being proposed, the complete lack of community input to determine how our suburbs will look, the lack of heritage controls, and the scale of overdevelopment being proposed for many growth areas. Now is the time. Look into groups such as the Better Planning Network and get involved.
Title image The Australian.
Sometimes there can be little wonder that planning and heritage protection within our suburbs is in a state of ruin, when you just take a look at some of the people in council who are actually running the show. We’ve recently learned of Parramatta Council’s ill-conceived approval to bastardise the convict-built heritage of Lennox Bridge. Back in August we lifted the lid on the former Mayor of Auburn and councillor, Mr Ronny Oueik, and his enduring attempts to demolish his own heritage-listed Federation mansion known as Camden Lodge. Now the case of his right hand man, the deputy mayor of Auburn, one Salim Mehajer, a young 26 year old property developer with expensive tastes in cars and some very questionable driving skills.
In October it was reported that this upstanding member of society took his $250,000 Ferrari 612 Scaglietti out for a drive in Lidcombe, lost control of the vehicle and veered onto the footpath striking two pedestrians, Nhu Hua, 68, and Teyet La, 40, who suffered serious injuries requiring surgery at Westmead hospital. The deputy mayor was convicted of negligent driving occasioning grievous bodily harm in Burwood Court, but parts of the story were changed after he revealed having to swerve away from another car, a fact he didn’t tell police earlier, saying rather he was distracted by the flash of a bystander’s camera. Despite the possibilities of severe punishment including stiff fines and jail time, Mehajir walked away with a relatively minor 12 month suspension for negligent driving and 150 hours of community service. No doubt his cause was helped by several personal references by dignitaries including councillors and state members, and being represented by former judge and Royal Commissioner, Greg James QC. He was actually commended by the Judge for his outstanding contributions to society.
This poses the question, does he deserve a place on council after all this? Is he a worthy representative of our community? And in a broader sense, do we want or need high flying property developers running our councils? Surely there are pecuniary interests at stake here, or at least a massive conflict of interest. On one hand, the council are supposed to assess DA’s and govern planning decisions based on community needs and unbiased procedure. Being the director of a property developing company while being sworn in as deputy mayor or councillor for that matter is not going to give unbiased decision making, because they have a stake in the building and development industry, they are in fact making money out of pro-development decisions, and that is not in the best interest of our communities. There is no way a developer should be on the council just as a convicted felon shouldn’t be in the police force.
Former Mayor of Rockdale John Flowers who is now a state MP is another pro-development politician. During his time at Rockdale Council he was involved in the so-called ‘Destinations’ failure which set Rockdale up as a new Gold Coast style tourism centre complete with marinas and parking over the beach dunes. Residents breathed sighs of relief when that was finally deemed dead and buried, but not content with merely harassing Rockdale residents alone, as a state government MP he is at it again, spruiking the merits of high rise in areas such as Botany Bay, where he believes buildings such as the gaudy Novotel are the way forward, and that the number of 60’s and 70’s blocks of 2 and 3 storey units in the area are a result of ‘‘planning paralysis’’ and ‘‘urban decay’’ (what he really means is they are not overdeveloped). Many of us find them more attractive and certainly more appropriate in scale and size to the modern day alternatives.
In his inaugral parliament speech he supported measures by his Liberal government to assist developers state-wide, allowing them to appeal to a Joint Regional Planning Panel if their DA was initially denied. This panel would consist of independent analysts including, you guessed it, developers. NSW Planning Minister Brad Hazzard sang the praises of the pro-development stance. ‘This means rezoning proposals which have merit — for instance those which are well-located, planned and will assist housing supply — may be supported after an independent review.’’ We see it another way… that even though a development has been knocked back due to being inappropriate, over-sized or unwanted by the community, it will still get through via this back door. Meanwhile, under Hazzard’s white paper reforms, we as residents won’t even get the right to know when a development is going up next door to our own homes.
Community members need to stand up against these self-interested developer-councils, pro-developer state government, and their developer lobby group buddies such as Urban Taskforce. They are taking us all for a ride. With the O’Farrell government’s white paper on planning undergoing public consultation as we speak, we need to oppose the ridiculous planning laws now being proposed and enforced upon us. There are many community groups around the Sydney area who are fighting long and hard battles against the various waves of this tide of bad planning. As a direct result of the green and white papers, a conglomerate known as the Better Planning Network (BPN) has recently been formed with the aim to combine us all in our fight at a state level. Here is an email link that contains a letter opposing the planning reforms. Please look and fill it out, it only takes a minute, and we will only win with many voices.
Main title image. Deputy mayor of Auburn Salim Mehajer, SMH.