It seems unfathomable in this day and age that a council-owned heritage building such as the Old Boot Factory in Bondi Junction could be slated for demolition, but in this era of Liberal dominated ‘heritage hate’ anything and everything is unfortunately possible.
In a move that has outraged the local community and stirred up a whole new wave of heritage activism, Waverly council has announced that it will bulldoze the last free standing heritage building in Bondi Junction due to foreseeable maintenance costs of one million dollars. In a special meeting of 29th April the Liberal majority voted to overturn a recission motion that would have postponed the demolition pending proper consultation and investigation. They should be ashamed. As it is a physical structure of bricks and mortar, and a community asset there will always be costs associated with a building such as this, that should be a given; for the council to shirk their responsibility and put it down to a dollar value is quite frankly pathetic and unacceptable… protection and upkeep of buildings such as this are part and parcel of their service to the local community, like removing the rubbish or keeping parks clean. Imagine the outrage if they decided to finish these services due to lack of funds.
In any event one million dollars is not a whole lot of money when it comes to buildings in the area, considering it wouldn’t buy a resident much outside of a two-bedroom unit down at Bondi or Clovelly. I know of another coastal council that recently spent over $100,000 just in putting up ‘no overnight camping’ signs along its beaches and guess what, the campers are still there camping. Great value for money that was… And if council are so cash strapped when it comes to heritage then perhaps they could apply for a grant from their Liberal government buddies on Macquarie Street, not that it would be forthcoming.
Considering the council has owned the site since 1984 and has let it run down to the point it is at now, they should take some of the responsibility and be made to clean up their lack of foresight and maintenance, rather than just being given the easy option to sacrifice the building altogether. In fact mention was made of the council’s stewardship over the years, and blame pointed to the previous councils (naturally). Councillor Leon Goltsman commented “Over the [last] 20 years, had it been maintained properly… there’s a good chance we wouldn’t be making this decision. It’s like a patient on life support, one of the hardest things is for the family members to decide to switch off the life support and this is what we’re doing. There’s nothing more that can be done to keep it alive.” (nothing more… nothing more? Try putting your hands in your pockets and funneling some of those exorbitant council rates into local heritage protection, that may be a start?)
The Boot Factory, at 27-33 Spring Street, Bondi Junction, is one of only two remaining in Sydney, and is remarkable as a rare surviving local example of a Late Victorian Free Classical factory building. It has been standing for over 120 years, being built in 1892, and hasn’t fallen down yet, and with advancements in structural engineering over the years, it certainly isn’t out of the realms of reality to save this building. In Europe for example, it is not uncommon to see 500-600 year old buildings standing proudly, many of which look more derelict than this one. Perhaps they don’t have Liberal councillors there. What is concerning is that no independent assessments by a heritage engineer have been made in this case. Instead, Waverly council has unfairly rushed through the process acting as owner, applicant, assessor and decision maker on their own DA.
The factory lends itself to being adaptively re-used as an art gallery, museum, restaurant, cafe or the like, if only Waverly Council can get past the monetary shadow and get on with the job people expect them to do, that is to protect a heritage listed significant building like this from being laid to waste. If the whole process wasn’t so rushed as it seems to be currently, perhaps the costs could be sourced by fundraising and targeting some wealthy benefactors who appreciate the value of local heritage in its existing form. And residents, you have a duty here too… You wouldn’t stand for them not emptying your bins, so why stand for this?
Main image is a still from HeritageModeller. There is an excellent video including a 3D digital model of the Factory here.
Link to local resident group Rescue Bondi here.