Crumbling Wollongong Masonic Hall to make way for new development

The Masonic Hall on Smith Street, Wollongong. PICTURE: Christopher Chan

The Masonic Hall on Smith Street, Wollongong. PICTURE: Christopher Chan

Developers hope to raze all but the crumbling facade of Wollongong’s oldest Masonic Hall, as a long-standing plan to build a multi-storey apartment block on the prominent CBD site gets under way.

Under a modified version of 12-year-old plans recently lodged with Wollongong City Council, developer Nicolas Daoud has revealed his company hoped to demolish most of the temple as it was ‘‘not structurally sound’’, according to an engineers report.

Mr Daoud’s company has finally begun constructing three one-bedroom terraces and a new apartment building with basement parking on the site, as approved by the council in 2010.

According to the original development application - which was first lodged in 2002 - the development would have remodelled the heritage-listed temple building into three loft-style apartments, and built 24 two-bedroom apartments over six levels and a basement car park with room for 33 cars.

However, the new plans say large cracks in the walls and damage to the foundations make the renovation of the Masonic Hall impossible.

Instead, the plan proposes demolishing it and reconstructing a new building with the same footprint and architectural form.

The property, completed in 1889, is heritage listed under the council’s local environment plan and is considered to represent the maturation of the Masonic movement in the Illawarra.

A heritage report by Rappoport consultants, included with the modification plans, supports the demolition of the temple building, saying the consultants are ‘‘of the opinion that partial demolition of the item is necessary for the continued and safe use of the site’’.

They recommended the developers photograph and archive any significant materials and said a heritage architect should oversee the conservation of the facade.

According to plans, the developers also want to add a floor to the high-rise block to allow for four extra apartments, and increase the footprint of the building to make way for media rooms in each home.

Four new underground car parks would be added, and courtyards would adjoin the loft dwellings in the reconstructed temple building.

The heritage listed cottage at 86 Smith Street, next to the temple site, would be maintained in front of the high-rise building.

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