'Always' the plan to demolish facade of 1920s Georgetown building: developer

A NEWCASTLE developer has admitted plans showing the facade of a 1920s Georgetown building would be kept in a new apartment complex may have been “misleading”, as its demolition prompts a backlash in the suburb.

But Tom Potter, of SurDevel Pty Ltd, said it was always the company’s intention to rebuild the facade as a replica, and urged critics to “have faith” that the multi-storey Georgetown Road development would be good for the area.

The building, which was the suburb’s former watering hole and most recently a coffee shop, was a shadow of its former self on Friday: the top half of its facade was non-existent and it was crumbling from behind.

Work to demolish the building had started the day before, but it ground to a halt on Friday after SafeWork NSW and Newcastle City Council arrived at the site due to safety issues.

Parts of the fence had been bent out of shape by falling debris, while other parts were held together with duct tape, and authorities would not allow crews back to work until there was adequate fencing and the street was closed.

However, the biggest issue in the eyes of the development’s critics on Friday were not the safety concerns, but that the facade had been demolished, with many turning to social media and the Newcastle Herald to vent their frustration.

NEW LOOK: An artists' impression showing The Georges Residency with a faux facade. The building will host 22 apartments.

NEW LOOK: An artists' impression showing The Georges Residency with a faux facade. The building will host 22 apartments.

Mr Potter said he had read the criticism, but argued that any change – particularly with new development – causes disquiet.

“People get very emotional when there’s change, and when a building they’ve grown up with gets demolished, but that is the nature of development,” he said.

“The fact is our city is changing, and it has been for some time now.”

Mr Potter said it was always the intention of the developers to knock down and rebuild the facade, despite a plan posted on a sales website for the new apartment complex that says “existing facade to be retained”.

An artists’ impression shows the facade as a central feature of the new building, but the developer said it was a reconstruction.

“[The plan] could be misleading … but it’s semantics, council knew what our intentions were,” Mr Potter said.

The building is not heritage-listed.

Many people stopped and stared at the demolition on Friday.

Wil Davies, of Wallsend, said he admired the workmanship of that time, and labelled the demolition “depressing”.

“It was gorgeous, it’s history, you don’t get the quality of workmanship like this anymore,” Mr Davies said. “At the end of the day, it’s an icon of Georgetown, and it’s gone – that’s sad, it’s really sad.”

Construction is expected to start in June.

TOOLBOX TALK: SafeWork NSW and Newcastle City Council staff in a tense conversation with a contractor after the demolition.

TOOLBOX TALK: SafeWork NSW and Newcastle City Council staff in a tense conversation with a contractor after the demolition.