Hotel magnate Jerry Schwartz readily admits his proposal for the former Newcastle Post Office isn’t motivated by a desire for a multi-million-dollar return on his investment.
Rather the Sydney-based cosmetic surgeon, who owns several hotels in Newcastle and Hunter, considers his plan to be a gift to the city.
“You know what? I probably won’t (make money out of it),” Dr Schwartz said on Friday. “It’s a posterity thing that I would love to do because I have got quite a big footprint in the Hunter. I make a lot of money from my other hotels. It’s just something I want to do, I think it would be a shame for the post office to be ruined and turned into some sort of money-making project.”
Dr Schwartz has proposed creating a function centre on the building’s first floor. The ground floor would feature wedding retail outlets such as dress shops, florists and photographers. The basement would be used as an Aboriginal cultural area.
“It’s a magnificent building that should be preserved, but I do want it have an Aboriginal feature,” he said.
While enthusiastic about taking on the former post office, Dr Schwartz said he had not been advised whether his proposal would succeed.
“Nothing is certain yet. Yes, I am a tenderer and yes, I am on the short list and I hope my tender will be favourably viewed,’ he said.
The Awabakal Local Aboriginal Land Council, which acquired the building following a successful 2014 land claim, is considering Dr Schwartz $3.3 million bid.
Awabakal Land council chief executive Rob Russell would not comment on Dr Schwartz’s bid on Friday but confirmed the group’s members would be considering a proposal for the building when they meet later this month. Any sale would need to be approved by the NSW Aboriginal Land Council.
The group acquired the King Edward Park Headland and the former Burwood Colliery Bowling club last week as a result of successful land claims.
Dr Schwartz bid $3.33 million when the post office was put to auction in 2010 by then owner, Sydney-based developer Sean Ngu, with the sale also including multiple poker machine licences.
It was passed in and later bought by the NSW government for $4.6 million before the NSW Land and Environment Court awarded the building to the Awabakal Land Council in 2014.
The council initially planned to use the building as an Aboriginal health and cultural centre, however, it was unable to raise the estimated $15 million needed to restore the building to a point where it could be occupied.
It listed the post office for sale through Colliers International late last year and the expression of interest phase closed in November.
Eleven expressions of interest were lodged for the building which ranged from hospitality and event use to educational facilities.