By Mick Roberts
The Reg Murphy Activity Centre has been granted a stay of execution.
The City of Sydney Council has requested a further report on options for the Potts Point Centre’s future.
The report will look into its continued use as a community facility, redevelopment for affordable housing and to have it leased. The report will not investigate the Centre’s sale.
News that the building will not be sold has been applauded by residents and community groups, who were outraged when Council announced the Centre was ‘surplus to needs’ under a review of community facilities.
Council’s City East Community Facilities Review last year called for the addition of a new floor to the Kings Cross Library for community space, restoring the Burton Street Tabernacle at Darlinghurst as a community theatre, re-building Heffron Hall in East Sydney and adding child care facilities to the Rex Centre in MacLeay Street Kings Cross.
The Reg Murphy Centre is currently home to the Darlinghurst Theatre Company, childhood health services and an activity centre for the elderly.
The proposal stated that the Centre would become surplus to needs under the Review and recommended the relocation of the theatre company to the Tabernacle, and the children’s health services to the Rex Centre. The elderly would also be shifted to the Rex Centre.
The 2011 Residents’ Association president Dr Sacha Blumen said the fresh report into future uses for the Reg Murphy Centre should properly consider its future options and not be a ‘cursory examination’.
‘The Council must now consult with current users of the centre and the local community on the options for its future use,’ Dr Blumen said.
Cr Chris Harris, who has been lobbying for the building to remain in public ownership, said the Centre is an irreplaceable public resource.
‘It needs a bit of a spruce up and I would also like (Council) staff to evaluate the possibility of putting two floors of affordable housing units on top,’ Cr Harris said.
‘This would be an imaginative and much needed initiative. We need to start thinking outside the box and find ways to create affordable housing,’ he said.
Council has also endorsed the relocation of childhood health services from the Reg Murphy Centre to the Rex Community Centre subject to further investigations through consultation.
Dr Blumen said mothers who use the Kings Cross Early Childhood Health Centre are concerned about the potential move and Council needs to properly consider their concerns.
‘Council needs to ascertain whether the Rex Centre is an appropriate location for the Kings Cross Early Childhood Health Centre,’ Dr Blumen said.
‘The 2011 Residents’ Association is in contact with mothers who use the Kings Cross Early Childhood Health Centre to ensure they are know about Council’s actions.’
Cr Harris said he was not willing to support the relocation if it was going to happen automatically before a “uses study” was done.
‘I was assured by the CEO in council that the baby health centre would not be moved unless it was signed off by council. Well, we don’t even know if that is a good idea yet so I think it is a bit premature to be talking about it. Let’s do the uses study first.’
President of the Kings Cross Potts Point Heritage Society Andrew Woodhouse said the Reg Murphy Centre issue should be dealt with fully and finally before the September local government elections to increase certainty in planning.
“Council knows there is nothing more frightening than trying to snatch a baby from a mother’s arms, particularly in the lead-up to the forthcoming Sydney Council lord mayoral and councillor September elections,’ he said.