ENTREPRENEUR Blake Forrester is “full of blissful anticipation” about his vision for the iconic Lynch’s Prawns site, which is expected to re-open in April after the project received almost $60,000 in community funding.
General manager of tenant Centaur Cycles, Mr Forrester, launched a crowd-funding campaign in October to raise $59,734 to make the council-owned building compliant with modern accessibility and safety standards and ensure access to utilities. He reached it with $131 to spare.
“It wasn’t me that got it across the line, it was the ground swelling of community support,” Mr Forrester said. “There’s no-one you speak to that’s been born and bred in Newcastle that does not have some sort of connection with that location or the Lynch’s Prawns business, who went with their parents to buy half a pound of prawns for Sunday night dinner.”
The Herald reported last month Newcastle City Council had approved Centaur Cycles’ development application to alter the 330-square-metre building “for change of use to cafe, shop, business premises and signage”.
Mr Forrester plans to open Lynch’s Hub, a shared space with bicycles for hire; a workshop with a mechanic and a tool stand for cyclists to do their own repairs; an espresso bar; and a tour desk. It will also be a base for Centaur Cycles' pedicab business Rickshaw Revolution. Electric vehicles company Catavolt will run pop-up workshops about installing e-bike kits.
But a council spokesperson said the terms of its agreement required any prospective lessor to undertake all necessary improvements.
“No-one expected the landlord was not going to do what you’d reasonably expect a landlord to do,” Mr Forrester said.
He pointed to three corporate sponsorships – NXFM gave $20,000, Will Creedon $5500 and Mullane Plumbers $3500 – as vital to the campaign to save the building, which requires a roof restoration, its broken windows and doors fixed and wheelchair ramps built.
“We should be starting work straight after the Christmas break and the cafe and cycle hire should be open by the Easter school holidays.”
GR Homes has donated its labor and project management and Signwave Newcastle has offered to do branding for sponsors, in exchange for a memorial plaque for Pat Lynch to be established on site. Pat and Aina Lynch operated the seafood business on a small site administered by about seven different authorities next to Dark’s Ice and Cold Storage up to the mid 1980s, when they lost the lease. Mr Forrester said the couple planned to close, but community outrage and petitions prompted the council to erect the current building close by.
“Our project was driven by the same thing that put the building in that location in the first place – the community wanted it and took matters into their own hands.”