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City of Newcastle proposes private development of ocean baths pavilions

City of Newcastle proposes private development of ocean baths pavilions
November 6, 2019

Looking to redevelop its landmark Newcastle and Merewether ocean baths pavilions, the City of Newcastle is inviting expressions of interest from parties who might be interested in overhauling the ageing structures.

While the exterior of the Newcastle Ocean Baths’ 1922 art deco building is heritage listed and will be retained, developers will be able repurpose its 5,800 metre² of space - as well as 2,200 metre² of the Merewether Ocean Baths - to include facilities such as gym, restaurants, cafes, kiosks and, potentially, accommodation.

Speaking of the Newcastle Ocean Baths, City of Newcastle Lord Mayor, Nuatali Nelmes stated "we’re really excited about this as it’s a great opportunity to improve such an iconic Newcastle site.

“We’ve had some structural issues at the Newcastle baths that we’ve known about for some time, with some corrosion of the original structure so we can fix those along with the refurbishment. We’re hoping improved facilities, including a better lifeguard tower, will further attract local residents and visitors to use the site for a lot more than just swimming.”

The Council has received a number of approaches over the years to redevelop both sites, but it decided instead to put in place a transparent process that would allow anyone to make suggestions.

Already these have included a gym, restaurants, yoga studio and short-term accommodation, with the Council releasing concept drawings from architects GHDWoodhead which show a modern box like structure sitting behind the art deco facade of Newcastle Ocean Baths.

The redevelopments must retain the Newcastle baths facade and include new public change rooms, disabled access, car parking, new seating, shading and community facilities at both sites.

Lord Mayor Nelmes added "the city is committed to improving public and community spaces along our coastline, and a commercial partnership could allow us to significantly enhance and manage these precious facilities in a financially responsible way."

First proposed in 2014, the project's revival comes after a recent Council debate during which independent Councillor John Church referred to Newcastle Oceans Baths as a "tired facility with Acrow props holding up the heritage facade".

In a subsequent statement, City of Newcastle Infrastructure Director, Ken Liddell advised that Councillors had made it clear six months ago that they considered the ocean baths their top infrastructure priority in the city.

Liddell stated "in February the Councillors came together for a two-day strategic planning workshop where they nominated the restoration of the Newcastle Ocean Baths as the single most important infrastructure project for the city.

"Our staff have spent the past six months developing the EOI as well as resolving a number of potential issues that exist because the Baths sit on Crown land. All issues have been resolved and we are now able to take the projects to the market."

Liddell said uses allowed under zoning regulations for both baths included restaurants, cafes or kiosks, community and educational facilities and recreation, adding "the EOI will be followed by a tender process for shortlisted respondents before a lease is signed with the City, which is the Reserve Trust Manager of both buildings for the Crown Lands Division of the NSW Government."

Click here for details of the EOI on the Australasian Leisure Management Tenders page.

Images: Newcastle Ocean Baths (top, courtesy of the City of Newcastle) and an artist's impression from architects GHDWoodhead of a concept for the redeveloped Newcastle Ocean Baths (below).

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