Would you live here? Council suggests uni housing for Roundhouse

Newcastle City Council says its City Administration Centre could be used for student accommodation after its staff move to new offices in the west end in 2019.

The council announced this month that it was moving more than 400 staff from the CAC, City Hall and Fred Ash building to the new Gateway office complex in Stewart Avenue.

The move in mid-2019 will leave the future of the distinctive CAC building, which celebrated its 40th anniversary this year, up in the air.

The council decided last month to demolish the phallus-shaped Queens Wharf Tower, but the city’s other provocatively curved building is unlikely to meet the same fate.

Council chief executive officer Jeremy Bath said the Brutalist building, dubbed the Roundhouse, Wedding Cake and Shuttlecock since it was opened in 1977, could house students given its proximity to NewSpace and a mooted university complex at Honeysuckle.

“I think the general consensus is that the Roundhouse would be ideal for student accommodation given the location of NewSpace and the likely second campus on the former rail corridor,” he said. “That’s been much discussed.

“That civic precinct is really, before our eyes, turning into an education and legal precinct, so it would make sense that the Roundhouse would be utilised consistently with that new purpose.”

Developer Jerry Schwartz has proposed a 175-room tower for up to 350 students a few hundred metres away in Wharf Road, and it is understood the university’s plans for Honeysuckle include student accommodation. 

Mr Bath also said the council had fielded inquiries in recent months about converting the 1905 Fred Ash Ltd building on Hunter Street into a boutique hotel.

“In terms of the Frederick Ash building, personally I’ve always seen it as a boutique hotel,” he said. “I certainly don’t think that its best use is as office accommodation, having worked in there. I spend the best part of several hours every day in that building with staff, and I know the limitations that come about.”

He said councillors would have to decide in the new year whether to lease the buildings or sell them.

But both Mr Bath and lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes said City Hall, which is nearing the end of a multimillion-dollar restoration, would stay in council hands and continue to host civic and private functions.

“There’s no intention to dispose of City Hall. It has a valuable role to play in terms of civic events,” Mr Bath said.

“It’s a valuable earner for council in terms of the venue’s capacity.

“It’s certainly not something that I will be taking to the council, for it to be sold.”

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