Newcastle council moves to Stewart Avenue in $7 million shift to west end

NEWCASTLE City Council is moving to the west end. On Friday the council revealed its $7 million plan to shift administration and 400 staff from its King Street headquarters to Stewart Avenue. 

The council has struck a 15-year lease on the 5550 square metre office space at 12 Stewart Avenue. The five-storey complex currently under construction will include offices, large meeting areas, a possible new council chamber and an outdoor terrace for staff.

Interim chief executive Jeremy Bath said the move would save $14,000 each year per staff member, by uniting four separate offices in a new building that caters to a modern workplace. 

“Modelling from various agencies show savings through the improved sustainability, reduced absenteeism, greater employee retention and increased productivity,” Mr Bath said. 

“The one-off $7 million cost of the relocation compares favourably to a poor $6 million investment should be choose to stay and update inefficient buildings with a combined age of over 140 years.”

The council is the latest organisations to move to the west end of Newcastle, with the new complex a short walk to Wickham Interchange.

"The East End of Newcastle is changing," he said.

"It's no longer the traditional CBD that it used to be. It's now an education precinct, it's an innovation precinct, it's a legal precinct. Council needs to continue to work with businesses in attracting them, but also work with developers, in terms of getting residents in there."

Staff moving to the new offices are currently spread across the administration centre, City Hall, 473 Hunter Street and the Fred Ash building. 

The elected council is yet to decide what will happen to the existing administration centre Roundhouse and heritage-listed Fred Ash building. There is also a question about where the council will hold future meetings once the new complex is finished. Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said the move would not put the Town Hall's future in jeopardy and assured residents it would remain a council asset. 

"We acknowledge the city is moving west and the council is putting their money where their mouth is," Cr Nelmes said. 

"As well as providing ratepayers a more attractive place to come and deal with council, this move is about consolidating our administrative staff in a single building to increase productivity and provide even better services. 

“Our new base will utilise the best modern design to enable staff to meet the growing demands of a rapidly developing city while offering easier access for people with mobility challenges and a more inviting foyer.”

Hunter Business Chamber CEO Bob Hawes acknowledged the move west made sense, but was keen to find out more about the future of the vacated sites.

“Council has spread operations across a number of buildings and sites, and we understand that this can give rise to potential inefficiencies in day-to-day operations," he said.

"This move to bring more people and working groups back together in one location gives the prospect of improving efficiency and productivity, which will deliver benefit to local businesses and the wider community.

“The Chamber notes that no formal decision has been made about the future of the ‘round building’ and the Frederick Ash Building that will be vacated; they’re iconic sites and we’re eager to understand council’s intentions regarding the reuse of these properties."

About 150 staff will remain behind in the civic and Honeysuckle areas to work out of the library, art gallery, museum, Civic Theatre and City Hall. 

Fit-out of the new building will begin in early 2019. 

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