Newcastle City Council's planned fire sale could net $45m

NEWCASTLE City Council could net $45 million and wipe out more than half of its $122 million infrastructure backlog by selling 13 crumbling public buildings.

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The council’s draft application for a rates increase to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal reveals new details about the planned city fire sale first reported in the Newcastle Herald in January last year.

The application says getting rid of 13 buildings marked for ‘‘disposal’’ could swell the city’s works budget by $45 million and wipe $67 million from the council’s growing backlog of infrastructure maintenance.

Sites identified for possible sale include the controversial Lynch’s Prawns site on Wharf Road and the heritage TPI House, which the council has condemned and is investigating demolishing.

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View Marked for disposal by Newcastle City Council in a larger map

Five buildings in the Civic precinct, the Civic Hotel building, Performing Arts Newcastle Building, Civic Arcade, former Energy Australia building and Sermac building have been earmarked as an ‘‘opportunity to redevelop [the] inner-city through the University of Newcastle’’.

The university has been negotiating with the council to purchase the former Civic Hotel site and surrounding buildings in an expansion of the Law School, but talks stalled last year while the university was awaiting a funding application.

The Herald understands that application is pending.

Three council-owned car parks, the Civic, King Street and Courthouse car parks, have each been flagged for a possible public-private partnership development.

The council’s sustainability review recommended selling the carparks to a private operator, but a $26.4 million repair bill and inability to turn a profit makes them an unattractive investment.

Council general manager Phil Pearce said yesterday an expression of interest document to manage the sale of the car parks was being prepared.

A derelict house at Adamstown, on land earmarked for a possible rail overpass for more than 60 years, is also proposed to be sold.

The council is finalising the sale of the ‘‘new’’ Fred Ash warehouse building to the NSW government for the development of a $94 million courthouse, and the former Wallsend Library building has been sold. Three empty blocks are also set to swell the council’s coffers.

The council has recently sold an empty industrial block at Sandgate, and is in negotiations to sell land at Elermore Vale and Wallsend.

The Wallsend site, on Minmi Road, has been approved for a Bunnings Warehouse development.

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