23/05/2006 - 22:00

Shadow cast over heritage site

23/05/2006 - 22:00

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Continuing strong demand for office and retail space in the CBD and a lack of vacant land is straining relations between levels of government in Perth.

Shadow cast over heritage site

Continuing strong demand for office and retail space in the CBD and a lack of vacant land is straining relations between levels of government in Perth.

Most contentious is the level of interest in the old Treasury Building precinct, bordered by Hay Street, Barrack Street and St Georges Terrace.

The site is owned by the state government and managed by the Department of Housing and Works.

The heritage precinct is at the centre of a growing dispute between members of the Perth City Council, the Heritage Council of WA and the Department of Housing and Works over proposed redevelopment and restoration.

The government has commissioned Melbourne-based architect Peter Elliot and Perth architects Donaldson +Warn, Sandover Pinder and Palassis Architects to produce a design for an office building with 17,000 square metres of space to complement existing heritage structures and facilitate pedestrian access through a ground floor dining and retail arcade.

Perth Lord Mayor Dr Peter Nattrass said the Perth Town Hall, the former Land Titles Office and the Treasury Building would be severely compromised if the government went ahead with the redevelopment, and that the requirement for 17,000sq m of government office space was excessive. 

“One of the greatest mistakes of the past was that Perth lost so many of its heritage buildings. We should not compound that mistake today by compromising these beautiful old buildings with grossly excessive and over-bearing additions,” Dr Nattrass said.

The old Treasury buildings are the four-storey stone Treasury Building, facing Barrack Street and St Georges Terrace, built in 1874, and two three- and four-storey buildings, built in 1893 and 1897, facing Cathedral Avenue.

Occupied until 1992 by the State Tax Department, the Treasury Building has also housed the Department of Land Administration and other state government authorities. It contains the state’s first cabinet room and premier’s office.

National Trust of WA chief executive Tom Perrigo believes the government is keen to drive the project through the approvals process without conducting extensive public consultation.

“If the development goes ahead, I’m afraid the integrity of the historical precinct will be destroyed. The plan has no aesthetic value and no social significance,” Mr Perrigo told WA Business News.

Before the development proposal can proceed to construction tenders, it requires approval from both the Heritage Council and the Central Perth Planning Committee, a committee of the Western Australian Planning Commission established to oversee and provide direction for planning in the Perth central area.

Project architect and Donaldson + Warn partner Geoff Warn said the project had the full support of the Heritage Council and he believes civic architecture of such importance “needs to stand proud”.

Mr Warn said the project could be a weak adjunct to the older buildings and should not mimic the past.

“I think this is an approach that is understood. You want to be able to leave architecture of your era in the city. The Town Hall was a progressive and grand design in its day and so we should embrace this opportunity to mark our space in time,” he said.

“We’re reinvigorating the old buildings by contrasting the different architectural styles and examples of this strategy can be seen at Federation Square in Melbourne and in many modern cities the world over.”

The government has given a commitment to leasing between 15,000sq m and 17,000sq m of office space in the building over a period of 20 years.

The government plans to maintain ongoing consultation with the Perth City Council, the Heritage Council and the Department of Planning and Infrastructure to resolve heritage and planning imperatives associated with the design.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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