Why derelict buildings worth millions are being left behind in a region desperate for places to live
As the Inner West development boom marches forward, some parts of the region are inevitably getting left behind.
From Newtown to Homebush, dozens of buildings have fallen into disuse and disrepair — the sight of which can be both haunting and intriguing.
Some of the buildings, vandalised with graffiti and broken windows, have been rotting for years while locals councils sit almost powerless to force the owners to clean up.
Most of the well-known blights sit in prime locations and are worth millions of dollars to developers.
In many cases, those plans have met roadblocks from local planning authorities, leading to lengthy court disputes as the buildings continue to crumble.
Other derelict sites are well-hidden and sought out by graffiti artists and skilful urban photographers.
Many are relics of Sydney’s industrial past, once playing a huge role in people’s lives as factories, transport hubs and hospitals.
From cinemas that haven’t screened a film in decades, to properties ravaged by fire, we look at 10 prominent Inner West eyesores and discovers what plans are in the works for their future.
1. BALMAIN LEAGUES CLUB — VICTORIA RD, ROZELLE
THE notorious eyesore that is the Balmain Leagues Club has been at the centre of multiple development proposals and bitter court disputes between developers and council bosses.
The site’s owner, Ian Wright, wants to build 12 and eight-storey residential towers on the site along with space for a new leagues club.
Mr Wright considered selling the site after those plans were rejected in court last year. He said it had been a “frustrating seven years” since he bought the property but has ”not given up hope of seeing my vision through”.
2. NEWTOWN TRAM DEPOT, 2-4 ANGEL ST, NEWTOWN
SINCE its closure in 1957 there have been countless suggestions to breathe new life into the heritage-listed Newtown Tram Depot, located alongside Newtown train station.
Campaigns by residents to turn the former transport hub into restaurants, artist spaces and a public park have all fallen flat.
In 2012, part of the forecourt was redeveloped and opened to the public but the main building remains derelict.
The City of Sydney said there were no proposals to develop the Railcorp-owned site, which is recognised as the oldest remaining tram depot in Sydney.
3. HAROLD HAWKINS COURT, 168 NORTON ST, LEICHHARDT
A STREET mural has been the only redeeming feature of this Norton St relic which has sat vacant for more than 13 years.
The history of Leichhardt’s Harold Hawkins Court building dates to the 1950s when the popular Marlboro Theatre opened on the site. In the early 1960s it was turned into an aged care facility until doors closed in 2003.
Now, Uniting Care wants to turn the uninspiring block into affordable and supported housing to meet “growing local demand”. Plans go for State Government approval later this year.
4. 1-13 PARRAMATTA RD, ANNANDALE
BOARDED up, derelict and dubbed by locals as the “eyesore of Annandale”.
1-13 Parramatta Rd has been deserted since late-2011 when developers illegally knocked down a heritage listed terrace on the block.
In 2015, Geitonia Pty Ltd and shareholder Bill Gertos were fined for demolishing the shopfront and lost their Supreme Court appeal against the fine last September.
Now, Sydney developer Ceerose is planning to turn the blight into mixed-use housing after securing the site at sale for $8 million.
5. DRUMMOYNE BOWLING CLUB, 2A HYTHE ST, DRUMMOYNE
WHAT was once popular among local lawn bowlers is now a magnet for squatters, graffiti artists and a reformed street gang.
The Drummoyne Bowling Club closed in 2012 — just two years shy of its 100th birthday -and was sold to private buyers for $4 million. Five years on, the Drummoyne Boys gang have made the derelict building their domain.
But that could all change under plans by the City of Canada Bay to allow a 15 metre redevelopment on the site. The rezoning plans are currently being assessed by the State Government.
6. PARRAMATTA ROAD
NOWHERE in the inner west are there more derelict and vacant buildings than Parramatta Rd.
Many of the vacant lots have been snapped up by developers in a bid to capitalise on State Government plans to add 35,000 homes along the road by 2035.
But in many cases proposals have met roadblocks from local councils. In the last month alone, developers behind 377, 435-437 and 447-451 Parramatta Rd won court appeals after their plans were knocked back by Inner West and Strathfield Councils.
Court documents show some disputes can last up to five years.
7. 97 MARRICKVILLE RD, MARRICKVILLE
IT’S long been considered the blight of the Marrickville Rd shopping strip. The former car yard has been left to crumble for more than three years after a series of failed development proposals for the site, including a late-night car wash.
Last year, the former Marrickville Council gave the green light for a $7.6 million, five-storey building for the site. It will include a cafe, restaurant and 38 apartments.
8. DUNLOP FACTORY, 9-15 BOWDEN ST, ALEXANDRIA
THE former Dunlop-Slazenger Factory became a mecca for graffiti artists after production lines ground to a halt in 1998.
For almost 20 years the Alexandria warehouse sat vacant as a revolving door of developers failed in bids to turn the site into apartments.
Last year, Marshall Investments won approval to redevelop the site into a retail complex. Managing director David Marshall said the “final stages of the transformation” were under way.
9. MIDNIGHT STAR, 55-57 PARRAMATTA RD, HOMEBUSH
PEOPLE once flocked in their droves to see the latest Hollywood releases at the Homebush Midnight Star.
When the doors of the art deco cinema closed in 1959 the site was turned into an ice rink, and later a reception site, until the doors closed for good in 1996.
In 2012, campaigners saved the site from redevelopment. The privately owned site is now protected by Strathfield Council’s heritage laws.
10. 426 KING ST, NEWTOWN
THE mysterious case of this dilapidated building in King St has been at the centre of intrigue and frustration for residents in Newtown.
The former auto repair shop has been extensively vandalised with smashed windows and graffiti, to the ire of nearby businesses and neighbouring cafes.
A City of Sydney spokeswoman said the owner of the building had died. She said no development plans were proposed for the site.
There has also been community support to retain the building’s facade. Nearby resident Paul Vonwiller said the site “sticks out like a sore thumb” but added: “It’s such a significant classic design — we can’t afford to lose this sort of building.”
VACANT industrial buildings surrounding Sydenham Station would be turned into a creative hub under plans by Inner West Council to attract live music venues to the district.
Derelict sites at White Bay have also been slated for redevelopment under State Government plans to attract high tech companies such as Google to the district.
The bomb site that is the former Marrickville Hospital is meanwhile receiving a multi-million dollar makeover with 220 apartments under construction on the prominent block.
In Rozelle, 627-629 Darling St will be turned in to three units and ground-level shops. The site has sat vacant since the tragic 2014 explosion.
Many buildings at the nearby Callan Park have meanwhile fallen into disrepair, prompting calls for an independent trust to manage the heritage properties.
The former insane asylum on the site has proved a popular filming location with TV series Doctor Doctor and horror film Ravenswood shooting on the estate last year.
Source: David Barwell, “Why derelict buildings worth millions are being left behind in a region desperate for places to live”, The Daily Telegraph, March 14, 2017