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Sale of local buildings to fund Newcastle Ocean Baths restoration

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The Newcastle Ocean Baths will inherit $9.5 million towards its long-awaited restoration if local councillors agree to the sale of three City of Newcastle owned buildings.

It was announced last September that the council intended to sell or lease the vacant Frederick Ash Building, along with the neighbouring properties that are currently home to the Blue Door Café and the Clarendon Hotel on Hunter Street.

Deputy Lord Mayor Declan Clausen said that the City’s asset committee had endorsed the sale, contingent on allocating the proceeds from the sale of three council owned buildings to the Newcastle Ocean Baths.

“The addition of $9.5 million to the restoration of Newcastle Ocean Baths allays any community concerns that the economic impact of COVID-19 would delay work proceeding to restore such an important site to the broader Newcastle community,” Cr Clausen said.

“The engagement process to date involving the restoration of the Newcastle Ocean Baths has overwhelmingly shown that the people of Newcastle see the return to its former glory as an urgent project.

“While the impact of restrictions to limit the spread of COVID-19 have significantly impacted on Council’s income this year, with the sale of these properties there is money in the bank to get the restoration of the Baths underway.”

City of Newcastle Chief Executive Jeremy Bath said the sale cemented the Civic Precinct’s attractiveness as a tourism and hospitality hub.

“The sale completes City of Newcastle’s relocation from the former Civic Precinct to the new CBD in Newcastle West,” Mr Bath said.

“Should the Council support the sale, then Blue Door and the Clarendon Hotel will continue as is, and the Frederick Ash Building will likely to be converted to tourist accommodation.”

Mr Bath believed the decision would allow for an adaptive reuse of the historic building, leading to further activation in the Civic Precinct.

“The future of the Civic Precinct is very exciting,” he said.

A business case for the sale of the buildings will help inform councillors’ decision whether to sell or retain the three properties.

The business case will show that the sale price is in line with a market valuation of the three properties, as well exceeds the net present value to retain the properties by almost $4.5 million.

The decision to proceed with the sale will go before the council on Tuesday 26 May.

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