Newcastle Ocean Baths restoration to receive $9.5 million from sale of local buildings

21 May 2020

The Newcastle Ocean Baths will inherit $9.5 million towards its long-awaited restoration should Councillors agree to the sale of three City of Newcastle owned buildings.

City of Newcastle announced last September it intended to sell or lease the vacant Frederick Ash Building, along with the neighbouring properties that are currently home to the Blue Door Café and the Clarendon Hotel on Hunter Street.

If the sale is approved by the Council, the $9.5 million proceeds will be placed into a reserve to part fund the much needed restoration of the Newcastle Ocean Baths.

City of Newcastle Deputy Lord Mayor Declan Clausen said that the City’s asset committee had endorsed the sale, contingent on allocating the proceeds from the sale of three Council owned buildings to the Newcastle Ocean Baths.

“The addition of $9.5 million to the restoration of Newcastle Ocean Baths allays any community concerns that the economic impact of COVID-19 would delay work proceeding to restore such an important site to the broader Newcastle community,” the Deputy Lord Mayor said.

“The engagement process to date involving the restoration of the Newcastle Ocean Baths has overwhelmingly shown that the people of Newcastle see the return to its former glory as an urgent project.

“While the impact of restrictions to limit the spread of COVID-19 have significantly impacted on Council’s income this year, with the sale of these properties there is money in the bank to get the restoration of the Baths underway.’’

City of Newcastle CEO Jeremy Bath said the sale cemented the Civic Precinct’s attractiveness as a tourism and hospitality hub.

“The sale completes City of Newcastle’s relocation from the former Civic Precinct to the new CBD in Newcastle West,” Mr Bath said.

“Should the Council support the sale, then Blue Door and the Clarendon Hotel will continue as is, and the Frederick Ash Building will likely to be converted to tourist accommodation.

“This decision allows for an adaptive reuse of the historic Frederick Ash Building, and further activation in the Civic Precinct. Importantly, its heritage is protected through the sale, given its listing on both local and state heritage registers.

“The future of the Civic Precinct is very exciting. The Roundhouse building is currently being converted to the city’s first five-star hotel in what is a $30 million project. Right next door workers are putting the final touches to a stunning $25 million restoration of the City Hall.

“Across the road, City of Newcastle is days away from being handed the keys to the new Visitor Information Centre. The former Civic Station sits in front of the recently completed Museum Park on what is the former heavy rail line.

“Just a few blocks to the east, work is progressing quickly on the $700 million East End development, which will see a stunning overhaul of the old Hunter Street Mall to include boutique shops and stunning apartments with harbour views. This includes the former David Jones building which is now also being converted to a five-star hotel.”

A business case for the sale of the buildings will help inform Councillors’ decision whether to sell or retain the three properties. The business case will show that the sale price is in line with a market valuation of the three properties, as well exceeds the NPV to retain the properties by almost $4.5 million.

The decision to proceed with the sale will go before Council on Tuesday 26 May.