Government confirms Store building coming down for bus interchange, high-rise development

The state government has confirmed the historic Store building in Newcastle West will be demolished to make way for a bus interchange and high-rise development.

Transport for NSW announced on Thursday that it ticked off on planning approval for the Hunter Street redevelopment, beside the Wickham train terminus, after a four-week public display in June and August.

The government has said for months that the building’s facade would not be kept, and it said on Thursday that public feedback had prompted a “suite of measures aimed at commemorating and conserving the history of the former Newcastle Co-operative Store”.

It will establish a “heritage reference group” and prepare a “heritage interpretation strategy”, including an oral history, before the building is demolished.

“These measures have been designed to ensure the history of the former Newcastle Co-operative Store is appropriately recognised in any future development of the site,” Transport for NSW said in a statement.

State government spokesman Michael Cassel, the Revitalising Newcastle program director, told the Newcastle Herald that the city had many old buildings worth preserving, some of which the government owned and leased.

He said the Store was important to the city’s social and cultural history but was not necessarily of great architectural value.

“It doesn’t really stand out as a piece of architecture that’s really, ‘Wow,’ that’s unique,” he said.

The Newcastle and Suburban Co-operative Society, which began in 1898, had 98,000 members in 1974 before closing seven years later. 

At its peak it had 1450 employees, 15 retail stores, a large wholesale division and 11 service stations, according to a historical booklet published in 1988. 

The Office of Environment and Heritage says the Store “represents a significant phenomena in the socio-economical development of the Hunter Valley, the co-operative movement,” and its interiors are “of significance”.

The bus interchange is destined to be incorporated into a multi-storey residential, commercial and retail building on the site, which has the highest zoning in the city at 90 metres, or 30 floors, although Mr Cassel said he was not sure if redevelopment would reach that high.

He said Revitalising Newcastle had sent a drone up 90 metres at the site and it had captured views of the beach at Merewether.  

The land includes a three-level car park beside Stewart Avenue.

Revitalising Newcastle has a shortlist of proponents for the redevelopment after calling for expressions of interest this year and expects to announce the winner around March.

Construction of the bus interchange is planned to start in mid to late 2018.

State government buys the Store