The Illawarra Aboriginal Corporation's landmark cultural centre on Kenny St will be demolished under new plans for another hotel and apartment development in the Wollongong CBD.
The corporation's leadership is now on the lookout for a site to build a new home for its operations after making the difficult decision to sell the site.
An application has been lodged for a high-rise development with more than 105 apartments and a 107-room hotel across 22, 24 and 30 Kenny St.
Construction would start mid-next year if approved, and the development would include food and drink, and commercial, premises on the ground floor.
The Cultural Centre and Keeping Place at 22 Kenny St has been a significant site for the Illawarra Aboriginal Corporation (IAC) and its members over multiple generations, since it was founded in 1980.
IAC chief executive William Henry said after seeing plans by developer Blaq Projects that would bring high-rise buildings as neighbours on multiple sides, the corporation's board decided to use this as an opportunity to relocate.
He said the IAC had originally lodged an objection to the development plans before receiving an offer for the property in 2021.
While it had not come by the IAC's choosing, Mr Henry said they would make the most of the opportunity to consolidate the corporations various operations into one location.
"The board saw the opportunity through the sale of 22 Kenny St, to build a 1000 square metre one-stop shop building to consolidate its services, and discontinue paying commercial rent to private renters," he said.
The house, later developed into the cultural centre, was the site for the founding of an Indigenous child care centre, Aboriginal legal and medical services in the Illawarra, the education centre now based at UOW, and the Illawarra Local Aboriginal Land Council.
The IAC now has several operations at different sites including employment, aged care, housing and child care.
IAC board chair Richard Davis said the corporation had little choice.
"In a sense there was no option ... the value of the property was going to go and we couldn't redevelop the place because of an easement [for an underground causeway]," he said.
"So we thought we could look for other premises or other places that we could house our own projects, all the services we provide.
"We'd looked at options, we'd been thinking about it for a couple of years, but when this came up it got the wheels in motion."
Mr Davis said it took some time and multiple meetings to win all the corporation members' approval.
"A lot of the members, you know, they've got family connections to the place, similar to me ... and we've got we've got connections to the place as well," he said.
"But I think they've all come around to understanding the realisation of why we meant to do it.
"And hopefully the [place] where we're going to relocate are going to bigger and more accessible for our community.
"The cultural side of things - we're not going to lose that. Things change, and we move forward, and I think we're going to be better off."
The IAC's main office has also moved from Auburn St to a premises on Lake Entrance Rd at Warilla.
Details of the Kenny St development are making their way through the Wollongong City Council assessment process before being placed on public exhibition.
The Mercury will publish more details about the development and its impact on the southern side of the CBD as they come to hand.
Blaq's project would add to the explosion in major developments which are imminent on or adjacent to Crown St.
Bruce Gordon's massive WIN Grand project will be close to this proposal, across a large city block on the other side of Burelli St, while the Globe precinct proposed for Church St and the Crown St Mall would transform that area.
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