News / Planning

Is this building worth protecting?

Developer’s plans would see historic cottage demolished and rebuilt

The building at 179 Albion Street was first occupied in the 1850s.

Brunswick Voice
Friday, December 2, 2022

ONE of the oldest residential buildings in Brunswick would be demolished and then rebuilt under plans to redevelop a high-profile site alongside Warr Park.

Developers Caldy Hill Investments Pty Ltd are seeking Merri-bek Council approval to knock down most of the existing bluestone cottage at 179 Albion Street, which they say is structurally unsound.

They would then rebuild the front and original section of the building in a homage to its 1850s heritage. Two double storey town houses with roof top gardens would be built behind the cottage.

The building has been unoccupied for about two years after previously housing cafes and restaurants for many years. The most recent tenant, Rogue District, closed down during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The current owners bought the 253 square metre site for $958,000 in 2017.

The new plans for the building would revive it for hospitality use but face stiff opposition from people who fear the building will be fully demolished and its existing character will be lost.

However, the argument is not all one-sided with opponents of the development being criticised on social media for being NIMBYs standing in the way of more housing in Brunswick.

According to a heritage report submitted by the developers as part of their planning application, the double-fronted bluestone cottage was built in the 1850s, making it among the oldest dwellings in Brunswick. Over the years, additions and extensions have been made to the original four room structure to occupy most of the site.

Warr Park, originally known as North Park, was developed about the same time and sits to the east of the building, while a car park is directly west of it.

The heritage report, prepared by architect Bernadette De Corte, found the house was in very poor condition and repairs had been made to attempt to hold it together after large cracks developed in parts of its bluestone walls.

The developers considered several ways to underpin the existing walls but none of these could guarantee the structural integrity of the building.

Get more stories like this delivered to your inbox

Instead, they have come up with a novel way of faithfully reconstructing the façade of the cottage which involves slicing the bluestone blocks in half and then mounting them on a structurally sound backing plate, which will be attached to the timber load bearing internal frame.

Other original features, including a terracotta roof and window frames, would be replicated in the new building, which would then be reopened as a café.

“The reconstruction of the original part of the bluestone cottage in a manner that will ensure longevity is reasonable because of the enormity of structural failure and the limited and high cost of unsatisfactory remedial interventions,” the heritage report said.

The entire project is budgeted to cost $950,000.

But a number of objections have been lodged since the development was first advertised three weeks ago. However, most objections appear to misunderstand the owners’ intentions to rebuild the bluestone cottage .

“This heritage bluestone building has been sadly neglected for a number of years,” said one objection which is representative of others.

“This certainly does not mean it should be demolished, rather it should be restored. The proposal to then build two storey dwellings right in Warr park is also disturbing, both for park users and any inhabitants. I believe there will inevitably be a conflict of interest regarding noise, park usage, rubbish and shading from trees.”

On social media, including the Brunswick Fairly Good Karma Facebook group, opponents and supporters of the development have traded barbs over their conflicting views of what should happen to the site.