NSW gov’t to finance Circular Quay upgrade by leasing heritage building

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16-18 Grosvenor Street in The Rocks, which the NSW government plans to lease.

16-18 Grosvenor Street in The Rocks, which the NSW government plans to lease. Image: courtesy NSW Government

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A concept design for Circular Quay wharves upgrade by Woods Bagot.

A concept design for Circular Quay wharves upgrade by Woods Bagot. Image: Woods Bagot

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The NSW government has announced that it will put a 99-year lease on a state heritage-listed property in The Rocks out to tender to help pay “improvements to key public domain areas along the Sydney Harbour foreshore.”

The former NSW Housing Board Building to be leased was built in 1921 in the interwar stripped classical style and designed by architect W. G. Foggitt. It has been a home to a number of government bodies in the decades since.

Brett Newman, CEO of Property NSW, argued that by leasing the former building instead of selling it, the government would be able to ensure the property’s heritage values are protected.

“The sale via long-term lease will deliver immediate funding to invest in our precincts while ensuring the property remains in government hands and is subject to heritage protections,” he said.

The building is listed on the NSW State Heritage Register. The building’s statement of significance says the building demonstrates “some key features of the interwar Stripped Classical style. Significant features include the decorative entry portal, dark brick banding, and bracketed render cornice.

“The interior retains most of the significant original features and although it has later partition walling it has been constructed such that it could be easily removed to restore the spaces and the original design intent.”

In 2015, the government announced it planned to divest a selection of government owned properties in The Rocks. Of the proceeds, at least $200 million would be reserved for the Circular Quay ferry wharf upgrade.

Concept designs for the revamp of Sydney’s busiest ferry terminal, by Woods Bagot, were released in 2015. The designs included double-storey wharves and a rejuvenated boardwalk. Circular Quay was last redeveloped in 1988 in celebration of the bicentenary of Australia.

The government said at the time that funds for the project would be found through a “new round of asset recycling” that would involve selling off a number of state-owned properties, including a number of hotels, commercial office buildings and a then-unspecified “government building in The Rocks.”


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