Next City Vanguard Conference wraps up with new ideas for Newcastle icons

OUTSIDE LOOKING IN: Emily Davies O'Sullivan, with other members of her winning team, was impressed with the quality of ideas from international delegates at the Next City Vanguard Conference. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers
OUTSIDE LOOKING IN: Emily Davies O'Sullivan, with other members of her winning team, was impressed with the quality of ideas from international delegates at the Next City Vanguard Conference. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

IF these urban planners had their way, the former Newcastle post office would become a high-rise hotel and Wharf Road closed for more parkland.

The Next City Vanguard Conference wrapped up on Friday, after spending a week studying the Revitalising Newcastle program and offering their thoughts on how to advance the city.

The delegates – who came from North America, New Zealand and other Australian cities – were given a tour of the former post office and former Newcastle rail station and challenged to come up with new uses for the historic buildings.

Chris Rowlands, a strategic planner with Bendigo council, said he was “blown away” by the dilapidated state of the old post office.

He was part of the winning team who proposed turning the post office into a multi-storey hotel.

The team’s concept proposed building on top of the existing building to make the cost of restoring the rundown icon financially viable.

“There is so much opportunity with that site,” Mr Rowlands said.

“We came up with the concept of the multi-storey hotel, obviously respecting the building’s heritage, but also finding new uses for the first and second floors.

“We were thinking there’s potential for a restaurant or bar, but also community space in the basement. 

“It has a big basement that could one day become a meeting space, exhibition space or performance space.”

Rachel Cogger, of Sydney, an Tyler Caine, of New York City, with the rest of their team on Newcastle beach. They had the winning entry for the former Newcastle railway station. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

Rachel Cogger, of Sydney, an Tyler Caine, of New York City, with the rest of their team on Newcastle beach. They had the winning entry for the former Newcastle railway station. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

Other controversial ideas were proposed for the former Newcastle railway station and surrounding area.

Tyler Caine, an architect from New York, said his team’s winning entry included a proposal to close Wharf Road and turn it into parkland.

He said his team wanted the station to become “a place for community”.

“The proposal included three main interior uses for the building: a cultural heritage centre, a space for artists and the last was food,” Mr Caine said.

“We wanted to capitalise on what seems to be a very budding food culture in Newcastle.”

Rachel Cogger, who formerly lived in Newcastle, acknowledged her team’s idea would ruffle feathers.

“I don’t know how it would go down on November 25 [Supercars],” she laughed.

“But it’s all about creating that connection to the harbour. It builds on on all the community consultation that’s been done over the past decade.

“It’s not just about creating a crazy idea.”

Emily Davies O'Sullivan, another Newcastle delegate, said the conference was an insight into an “outsider’s perspective” of the city.

“Being a Novocastrian, you almost have your blinkers on,” she said.

“You’ve heard all the arguments before and you get used to them, so it’s great to have another perspective on the future of the city.”