THE NSW government will begin market testing to find a buyer to redevelop The Store building in Newcastle West, but the building’s heritage-listed facade is unlikely to survive.
On Tuesday Transport Minister Andrew Constance announced plans for a new bus and coach interchange and “employment hub” on The Store site will be market tested from next month.
The government has kept quiet on its plans for the site since it purchased it for $11 million in 2015 but the Newcastle Herald understands that with approved height limits of 90 metres any redevelopment of the site is likely to be close to 30 storeys of residential, commercial and retail.
But, Mr Constance said he envisioned the site, which backs onto the new Wickham Interchange, becoming a commercial precinct coupled with a bus and coach terminal.
“The Store site is obviously a pivotal part of us being able to broaden the transport opportunities for the people of the Hunter,” he said.
“This major interchange point at Wickham will provide not only the interchange people light rail and heavy rail but we’re also looking to develop a greater commercial precinct coupled with a bus and coach terminal at the site.”
However that will come at a cost to the heritage-listed Store building.
Mr Constance said the redevelopment of the site would include “destruction of the existing car park, and those old buildings, those dilapidated buildings”, which would “enable us to provide a great transport solution while we provide enormous uplift to the west end of Newcastle”.
The Store’s two-story rendered brick facade is heritage listed as an “important and dominant townscape element” that “represents a significant phenomena in the socio-economical development of the Hunter Valley, the Co-operative movement”.
But Mr Constance suggested it was unlikely the facade would survive.
“What we’ve discovered is there is challenges and unfortunately that facade is crumbling away, so that poses a risk for the community which is why you’ll see the coverings at street level,” he said.
“Ultimately yes it would be nice to do that [retain the facade] but there are things we can do into the future to better recognise that incredible heritage behind the Store site which we will look at through the market testing with the private sector.
“Ultimately my expectation is that there is a bus and coach interchange point with the existing Wickham interchange, and at the same time we something in keeping with a lot of the development happening in and around the precinct.”
With its 90-metre height limit and long Hunter Street frontage, The Store is among the largest and most strategic sites for redevelopment in the city, and seen as a key part of the commercial shift to Newcastle’s west end.
Mr Constance, who is in Newcastle on Tuesday, said there was “huge potential to create an employment hub and retail district alongside new, fully integrated transport solutions”.
“When the NSW Government bought The Store adjacent to the new transport interchange in 2015, we had a vision for a fully integrated transport destination. Somewhere you go to – not just move through,” he said.
“We see the site becoming an iconic development with potential to attract big employers and do Newcastle proud.”
Minister for Planning Anthony Roberts said the The Store would “underpin the shift of the CBD towards Newcastle’s west end”.
“The Store site has huge potential and we look forward to seeing how the market responds over coming months,” Mr Roberts said.
Revitalising Newcastle will manage the process to take the site to market, with the intention of releasing decisions made on the future of the site by the end of the year.