BY JOHN MOYLE
Yes, Dorothy, you can take the rainbow way to Kansas this Mardi Gras, but if you are going via Oxford Street it might be a bumpy ride.
Six years after its predecessor in the heart of Taylor Square was rubbed out for safety reasons, last Friday the City of Sydney launched a safer and curvier version nearby on the corners of Bourke and Campbell streets.
Three weeks out from Mardi Gras, the crossing is the only obvious gay addition to Oxford Street as T2 and the three City of Sydney buildings that constitute 40 per cent of the north side of Oxford Street from Taylor Square to Whitlam Square languish from disuse and disrepair.
“The City hasn’t maintained the buildings to an acceptable standard,” Councillor Christine Forster, City of Sydney, said.
“The City purchased the property in December 2009 for $6.45 million following the closure of the T2 nightclub and years of complaints from the community about violence, drugs, noise and anti-social incidents,” a spokesperson for the City of Sydney said.
Dereliction of care
The operators of the T2 nightclub were later found to be operating without a development approval and an entertainment license and was closed by the City of Sydney in 2008.
While the City of Sydney can no longer be held responsible for T2, which it sold to a private developer in February 2016, it did fail to maintain the building while it was empty of tenants.
The same dereliction of care is occurring around the corner on Oxford Street with the Darlinghurst Collective of buildings and shops.
“The two floors above us have been neglected for 20 years, with virtually no maintenance,” Wayne Nicol of Sax Leather said.
However, the City’s property division was on a hiding to nothing from the moment it paid $1.5 million more than their own valuation for the 350sqm block with its three-level building and a lettable area of 923sqm.
Council documents obtained last year show that the City of Sydney’s valuers placed their own valuation at $5 million.
Since the City’s purchase, T2 briefly saw small operators such as Deus Cafe and various pop-ups until 2015, when City of Sydney councillors voted for a $14.7 million bicycle hub in the ground floor.
At the time, one councillor labelled it “a flagrant misuse” of public money.
The project withered in Town Hall and the arena of public opinion and the building continued to fall into disrepair.
“The uptake of cycling in the City and the investment in end of trip facilities by the business community was more rapid than expected and there is no longer a need for a bicycle hub, a spokesperson for the City of Sydney said.
Back on the City of Sydney’s drawing board to ready the building for sale, its distinctive pink and blue artwork by artist Reko Rennie, a Kamilaroi man, was returned to its original heritage colours.
Also gone is the “Always was, Always Will Be” artwork commissioned by the City of Sydney that wrapped the building.
T2‘s eventual $6.85 million sale was to Archon Property Trust, which had previously redeveloped Leichhardt’s post office, and property lawyer and developer Peter Prilis.
Neither could be contacted for comment, with phones that had either been disconnected or were ringing out.
Last year the City of Sydney’s property division paid private contractors $264 million to manage its property portfolio, much of which is in prime locations such as Taylor Square and Oxford Street.
Many of these properties have been in a state of disrepair and empty for years.
The unimpressive fact that City of Sydney sold T2 at the peak of the market and only realised a profit of around $400,000 also needs answers.
“We hear that they are looking for a lead tenant to go into the upstairs site,” Stephan Gyory, President of the Darlinghurst Business Partnership, said.
Likely tenant found
After a long period with no definite offers, a change of real estate agents may have finally secured a tenant.
“We have just started to do a deal with an office tenant for the top floor and we would like to see a restaurant and bar in the ground floor,” Dimitrios Franze of Oxford Commercial said.
Due to the run-down condition of the building, a common complaint for property owned by the City of Sydney in the Oxford Street area, it may not be a straightforward deal.
“When a newspaper got inside a few years ago it was looking pretty derelict,” Wayne Nicol said.
“The new owner will be required to restore it in context with its architectural heritage and in character with the surrounding area,” Cr Forster said.
As of last year, the City of Sydney owned 220 properties worth over $2 billion.