09/04/2008 - 22:00

Heritage move muddies water

09/04/2008 - 22:00

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Regarded by many as a prime spot to house one of Western Australia’s biggest arts organisations, the former ABC studios site on Adelaide Terrace instead appears likely to be sold to property developers.

Regarded by many as a prime spot to house one of Western Australia’s biggest arts organisations, the former ABC studios site on Adelaide Terrace instead appears  likely to be sold to property developers.

The site’s future has generated plenty of dialogue between six state and federal government ministers, the ABC board, and two not-for-profit groups – the National Trust of Australia (WA) and the WA Symphony Orchestra.

WASO is hoping to become a tenant of the site, along with a number of other arts groups, a move that would be facilitated by the National Trust buying the site in a public-private partnership.

But the ABC has not responded to the National Trust’s offer, reiterating its position that the site will be sold on market.

While the property is likely to generate plenty of interest from property developers, any future development could be complicated by the decision to place the entire 1.3-hectare site on the state’s permanent heritage register, which WA Business News understands was officially made last week.

National Trust of Australia (WA) chief executive officer Tom Perrigo said he welcomed the decision, which would make the site less attractive to private developers.

“It means there are going to be additional costs for any developer that buys the site,” he said. “The ABC and the Commonwealth, in delaying their decision, may in fact have cost themselves millions of dollars.”

The National Trust had the ABC site valued in 2006 at between $16 million and $22 million, although it is expected to fetch significantly more today.

Mr Perrigo said the trust’s proposal would still allow two-thirds of the site to be developed, with the studios to be retained for WASO and other not-for-profit groups.

Mr Perrigo said he believed external pressure on the ABC board had influenced its decision.

“The ABC wants to go out to auction to get a huge amount of money for the site, so they can look good to Treasury, but you have to ask, where is the ABC’s corporate responsibility?” 

The National Trust’s next move is to request, along with WASO, that Premier Alan Carpenter add his support to the group’s bid.

WA Business News understands WASO chairwoman Janet Holmes a Court is likely to lobby the government on the orchestra’s behalf. 

Support for the proposal has already come from the state government, with Industry and Enterprise Minister Fran Logan, Arts Minister Sheila McHale, and Housing Minister Michelle Roberts writing to the federal government to make the case for WASO.

The state government has also pledged $10 million for a refit of the studios, if it is transferred to the orchestra.

WASO chief executive officer Keith Venning said the lack of response from the ABC was very disappointing.

“It seems to me the ABC are hell-bent on selling the site regardless of the considerations we put forward,” he said.

“We are doing all we can at a state and federal level to help the ABC see the situation differently, but we’re waiting for a formal response from them.”

Mr Venning said housing WASO in the old ABC studios was a unique opportunity, which had failed to generate support from ABC management. 

“These decisions are made out of Sydney – it’s just a remote site to [the ABC’s board] and they don’t really care about the future of the site,” he said. 

Heritage Council of WA policy officer Mike Beetham said there was no expectation that all of the buildings on the ABC site would be kept intact, but rather that discussions would be held with future owners to determine which parts of the built fabric had heritage value.

Mr Beetham said he expected there would be some demolition of the existing buildings, as with the Raine Square site.

The ABC site, which was built in 1958, originally housed WASO in one of the studios.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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