Developers of a Smith Street apartment block have been told by a Wollongong City Council panel that they must not knock down the city's oldest Masonic Hall despite structural problems with the building.
In May, ADM architects - working on behalf of Sydney developer Nicolas Daoud - lodged plans to demolish all but the temple's crumbling facade, after an engineer employed by the company deemed it structurally unsound.
In its place, the firm planned to construct a new building, containing four loft-style apartments with the same footprint and architectural form as the temple, in front of a new seven-level apartment building containing 28 flats.
The developers argued that large cracks in the walls and damage to the foundations would make the renovation of the Masonic Hall impossible and instead proposed demolishing it and constructing a new building.
However, last week, the council's Independent Hearing and Assessment Panel (IHAP) ruled the proponents should amend their proposal to include "the retention of the vestibule and meeting room" of the original Masonic temple.
The panel members, Robert Montgomery, David Crofts, Susan Hobley and Bernard Hibbard, said they had inspected the building and developer's reports and believed all parts of the original temple were "of particular heritage significance".
"Notwithstanding the representations and reports presented, this original building is also considered suitable for restoration in its entirety," the panel recommendations said.
Two later additions were "in a greater state of deterioration", meaning demolition and rebuilding these parts was acceptable.
"The panel considers that the proposed modification ... represents a reasonable balance between new development and heritage conservation in the circumstances," the panel said.
The 1889 temple is listed under the council's local environment plan and is considered to represent the maturation of the Masonic movement in the Illawarra.
The panel recommended the new development - including the loft apartments and multi-storey building - be allowed once a satisfactory conservation management plan was submitted.