Newcastle post office: delegates hear iconic city building could cost up to $15m to restore

THE cost of returning the former Newcastle post office to its former glory could be up to $15 million, a visiting international delegation was told on Tuesday, as the doors to the landmark building were opened for the first time in years.

“That’s just to get it back to an operable state,” Awabakal Land Council chief executive Rob Russell said. “Between $10 and $15 million is the figure I hear most.”

It comes as the ailing icon is prepared for sale, with an expressions of interest campaign closing in one week. 

It also comes at the start of the Next City Vanguard Conference, which is being held in Newcastle, bringing 50 internationally respected urban planners to the city in a week-long event to study the revitalisation program.

Next City chief executive Tom Dallessio, of Philadelphia in the United States, expressed surprise the former Newcastle post office had been left to rot. Picture: Simon McCarthy

Next City chief executive Tom Dallessio, of Philadelphia in the United States, expressed surprise the former Newcastle post office had been left to rot. Picture: Simon McCarthy

In a tour of the building, delegates were stunned that a building of such prominence in a major city had been left to rot. 

The Newcastle Herald observed vile graffiti scrawled across two levels of the building, floors covered in debris and smashed windows.

There were holes in the walls, as well as the floor.

“Don’t put your foot in there otherwise you’ll fall straight down,” one official warned. 

Bizarrely, there were fishing rods dangling from the upper-level balcony overlooking Hunter Street Mall.

The ceiling appeared to be made of plywood in some sections, while pigeon droppings were caked into the flooring.

Despite the building’s obvious shortcomings, delegates were told the building had “good bones” and was an icon of the times.

Michigan delegate Glenn Wilson was impressed with the future potential of the site.

“Where people see dirt, I see diamonds,” he said.

Auckland urban planner Liz Allen described the heritage building as a “stunning space” that could have commercial and community uses, but she conceded it would need a massive financial investment for restoration work.

“It’s always a balancing act,” she said.

Next City chief executive Tom Dallessio was surprised at the state of the building, given its prime location.

“But it’s not surprising that when you don’t invest in our public infrastructure that deterioration happens,” he said.

“So the central message, again, is that we can’t allow other buildings to happen like this.

“Whatever Newcastle, and others, can do to preserve and conserve our natural and cultural resources, we need to do.” 

The Herald reported on Monday that agents in charge of the sale had fielded about 70 inquiries, with seven wanting to inspect the property.

Virtually no one is prepared to publicly state the value of the building.