Fire shows historic Newcastle post office can’t be ‘left to rot’

Post office sale attracts national interest May 2008: Still empty. Picture: Darren Pateman
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FIRE: The blaze started some time before 9.44pm. Picture: Liz Knott

FIRE: The blaze started some time before 9.44pm. Picture: Liz Knott

FIRE: The blaze started some time before 9.44pm. Picture: Liz Knott

FIRE: The blaze started some time before 9.44pm. Picture: Liz Knott

FIRE: The blaze started some time before 9.44pm. Picture: Liz Knott

FIRE: The blaze started some time before 9.44pm. Picture: Liz Knott

FIRE: The blaze started some time before 9.44pm. Picture: Liz Knott

FIRE: The blaze started some time before 9.44pm. Picture: Liz Knott

FIRE: Some of the damage from the blaze. Picture: Simone De Peak

FIRE: Some of the damage from the blaze. Picture: Simone De Peak

FIRE: Some of the damage from the blaze. Picture: Simone De Peak

FIRE: The blaze started some time before 9.44pm. Picture: Liz Knott

Cyclists stand outside the Hunter Street court house in about 1900. The post office was built on the site by 1903.

May 2008. Picture: Darren Pateman

1902: The post office under construction before its August 1903 opening.

An atrium proposed in one plan for the post office site. Picture: EJE Architecture

An atrium proposed in one plan for the post office site. Picture: EJE Architecture

An artist’s impression of a planned function room once proposed for the site. Picture: EJE Architecture

2009. Picture: Ben Rushton

2009. Picture: Ben Rushton

Picture: Dean Osland

2008: Project director Michael Rodgers with then-owner Sean Ngu. Picture: Ryan Osland

2008: Project director Michael Rodgers with then-owner Sean Ngu. Picture: Ryan Osland

October 2008: Plans to convert the post office into a nightspot have been approved and work is to begin shortly. Picture: Ryan Osland

May 2008. Picture: Darren Pateman

October 2008: Plans to convert the post office into a nightspot have been approved and work is to begin shortly. Picture: Ryan Osland

March 2005: “Newcastle post office finally cleaned up”. Picture: Darren Pateman

1903: The post office opens.

JUNE 2006: Temporary fencing around the site is removed. Picture: Simone De Peak

Former owner Sean Ngu inside the post office in 2008. Picture: Ryan Osland

JUNE 2006: Temporary fencing around the site is removed. Picture: Simone De Peak

JUNE 2006: Temporary fencing around the site is removed. Picture: Simone De Peak

2008. Picture: Darren Pateman

2008: A broken window, potentially allowing access to the site. Picture: Darren Pateman

2005. Picture: Dean Osland

2005: The post office is cleaned up. Picture: Darren Pateman

Michael Rodgers and Sean Ngu in 2008. Picture: Ryan Osland

JUNE 2008: Milton Morris seeks to have the post office moved back into the old building. Picture: Kitty Hill

JUNE 2008: Milton Morris seeks to have the post office moved back into the old building. Picture: Kitty Hill

JUNE 2008: Milton Morris seeks to have the post office moved back into the old building. Picture: Kitty Hill

January 2005. Picture: Simone De Peak

2005. Picture: Kitty Hill

2005. Picture: Kitty Hill

2005. Picture: Kitty Hill

Picture: Dean Osland

January 2004. Picture: Glen McCurtayne

Picture: Stefan Moore.

2004: A glimpse into the post office, believed to be housing squatters. Picture: Glen McCurtayne

2010. Picture: Darren Pateman

2010: Jodi McKay in the old building. Picture: Dean Osland

2009. Picture: Dean Osland

2010. Picture: Darren Pateman

2010: After the graffiti is cleaned off. Picture: Stuart Quinn

2010: After the graffiti is cleaned off. Picture: Stuart Quinn

2009: Sean Ngu. Picture: Darren Pateman

2010: the government tours the site to check its condition. Picture: Darren Pateman

2010. Picture: Darren Pateman

2009: Sean Ngu with Simon Emerzidis (left) and Steve Kremisis (right. They hope to open doors in December 2010. Picture: Simone De Peak

2010: Jodi McKay in the old building. Picture: Dean Osland

2010: With Jodi McKay in the old building. Picture: Dean Osland

2010: Inside the old building. Picture: Dean Osland

2010: Jodi McKay in the old building. Picture: Dean Osland

Sean Ngu.

2010: Owner Sean Ngu with business partners Steve Kremisis and Simon Emerzidis. Picture: Simone De Peak

2010: the government tours the site to check its condition. Picture: Darren Pateman

2010: the government tours the building to check its condition. Picture: Darren Pateman

2010: Inside the old building. Picture: Dean Osland

2010: Jodi McKay in the old building. Picture: Dean Osland

2010: Jodi McKay in the old building. Picture: Dean Osland

2010: Jodi McKay in the old building. Picture: Dean Osland

2010: Gionni Di Gravio calls for the site to become a history and visitor information centre. Picture: Stuart Quinn

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Onceexpressions of interest close next week,Colliers Internationalwillwork through the proposals to determine which are feasible.

“Then we will take it to the [Awabakal] members with some recommendations and see how they feel about it,” the land council’schief executive, Rob Russell, said.

Howevertechnically the post office can not yetbe sold,as one of nineAwabakal properties tied up in court action.

Earlier this year two Sydney companiesplaced a caveat over the building in the Supreme Court, claiming they were owed money by the land council. The case has not been resolved.

“We have to pay fees to the courts to even start to move towards having those caveats removed,” Mr Russell said.

“It’s people from outside,draining money out of the land council. But we are determined to move forward.”

Colliers International executive Michael Chapman said agents had been pleased with the level of interest duringthe expressions of interest process.

“All sorts of things have been proposed, from hospitality to a hotel to commercial uses,” he said.

“It’s really working through how you can unlock the value and reinvent the building to the landmark it once was. That may rule out some uses based on cost.”

On Monday, work beganto clear and secure the verandah of the post office, in what was hailed the “first step in a long journey” to restore the treasured buildingto its former glory.

The parliamentary secretary for the Hunter,Scot MacDonald, welcomed the start of restoration works.

“It is good to see the NSW Government funding to secure and make safe the old postoffice is now being utilised,” he said.

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