By Lydia Watson-Moore
Marrickville council has taken the next step towards development of a proposed $40 million library site, but at the potential cost of three heritage buildings.
At their meeting on May 19, councillors voted to progress to stage two of the tender process for the site and approved demolition of three terrace houses on Livingstone Road.
The four shortlisted developers will now create a ‘concept plan’ for the site, indicating where buildings will be and their purpose.
The site will be a mix of community and public spaces, at least four percent affordable residential housing and private development.
Greens councillor Sylvie Ellsmore said it was important the council had made this decision, as a new library had been discussed for more than ten years.
“The project’s been going for so long, and we need to get it done. We don’t want to delay any further,” she told City Hub.
Clr Ellsmore said the four developers, chosen from 20 expressions of interest, must make detailed plans and models by November this year, which will be assessed by the council and community.
She said the public would be able to attend council meetings about the development, and that each proposal will be available for public viewing.
The proposed demolition of three terrace houses on the site was the main source of contention at the meeting.
Clr Ellsmore said the houses were at the back of the site, in the area allocated to private development.
She said while it was a difficult decision to make, allowing the developers the option to build up to three or four storey buildings was best for public interest.
“It was really hard, because it’s hard any time we vote to damage heritage, but we have to make decisions in the public interest, and part of that is whether it’s good use of public money,” Clr Ellsmore said.
The decision to demolish the terraces was not unanimous, with two councillors objecting.
Independent councillor Victor Macri voiced strong opposition to both the demolition and the entire development, and said it was not want the community wanted.
“Do they really want a $40 million library? Do they? The people I talk to, they don’t want that,” Clr Macri told City Hub.
He said council had ignored a heritage report that recommended keeping the houses.
“It’s the most disgraceful thing I’ve ever seen on this council. I am embarrassed,” he said.
Greens councillor Max Phillips voted against demolishing the buildings, but said he could understand why others voted as they did.
“I don’t think it was out of the question that they could’ve been incorporated into the development,” he said.
“It would’ve required some creative thinking, and it would’ve made the project more complex and difficult, but I thought they should remain protected. It was a very difficult decision though, I can totally understand why others voted for demolition,” he said.
Clr Ellsmore said while this report did advise not to demolish, it stated that the houses were only moderately significant and that other buildings on the site, the hospital building and nurses quarters, which would be kept were more important.
“It was a really difficult decision, but we need to take the whole picture into account. The fact that this is going to be the biggest investment this council has ever made in the community, and will protect these other heritage buildings,” she told City Hub.