New beginning for The Block
- Max Chalmers
- Thursday, 17 January 2013
A long-term project to rebuild The Block in Redfern could begin as early as July this year if financing for the project can be secured.
The NSW Department of Planning and Infrastructure has announced its approval of a development application (DA) forwarded by the Aboriginal Housing Company – the company that owns and manages the site. The project is known as the ‘Pemulwuy Redevelopment’.
Aboriginal Housing Company CEO Michael Mundine is confident the long-awaited redevelopment will finally be able to commence.
“I’m really confident. I think our main obstacle was the DA approval,” he told City News.
The development will see the construction of 62 affordable housing dwellings which will be reserved for local Indigenous residents. The cost of renting these dwellings will be subsidised by the fees collected from commercial developments on the site including a 42 unit student housing facility, childcare centre, community gallery and gymnasium.
The Department of Planning and Infrastructure said the development would meet several strategic goals while NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell said it would lead to “a vibrant new housing, community and cultural precinct close to transport and the University of Sydney”.
Despite the government’s praise, some elements of the application had caused controversy. The student housing units had attracted criticism from locals concerned they would lead to an influx of non-Indigenous residents into the area.
However, local groups such as the Redfern Eveleigh Darlington Waterloo Watch (REDWatch) have voiced support for the plan in its current incarnation.
REDWatch spokesperson Geoff Turnbull said by developing a source of revenue, the Aboriginal Housing Company would be able to maintain control of the site and prevent dependence on government funding. He praised the inclusion of both commercial and subsidised residential elements.
“Together that will actually mean that affordable housing will manage to be sustainable in the long-term which is the most important part of the exercise,” said Mr Turnbull.
The major question now is one of funding. While the Department of Planning and Infrastructure waived $142,000 in DA fees, it is still unclear how initial construction costs will be met.
Both the Aboriginal Housing Company and DeiCorp, the company charged with designing and building the development, remain positive.
Greg Colbran, Pemulwuy Project Manager and DeiCorp’s Development Manager, said the Aboriginal Housing Company had become a “professional development company”.
“[We] can handle not only the day-to-day running of their housing sector, but [are also] capable of running the Pemulwuy Project from development stage to completion of construction and beyond.”
Mr Mundine said funding for the commercial elements of the project would come from the banks while the Aboriginal Housing Company would turn to the government for the remaining grants. He conceded there was still work to be done.
“We’ve got to cross our ‘t’s and dot our ‘i’s,” said Mr Mundine.
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