There is no shortage of good will for Jerry Schwartz’s plans to restore and repurpose the former Newcastle post office building, which the plastic surgeon has agreed to purchase from the Awabakal Land Council for $3.5million.
“He can really make a name for himself if he follows through and does a good job,” Hunter Living Histories chairman Gionni DiGravio said.
Settlement on the 1903 building is expected to take four months to finalise, however, Dr Schwartz’s has already commissioned an asbestos assessment.
Work will hopefully begin in the new year on creating a function centre on the building's first floor.
The ground floor will feature wedding retail outlets such as dress shops, florists and photographers.
The basement will be converted into an an Aboriginal cultural area.
Dr Schwartz, who has described the project as a ‘labour of love’ said on Tuesday night that he was keen to establish the Aboriginal cultural centre as soon as possible.
Mr Di Gravio said one of the most attractive elements of Dr Schwartz’s plan was that it did not involve substantially altering the existing structure.
“I really hope he does well out of it,” he said.
“It is the city’s most beautiful structure; as a city we need to get our act together to preserve these types of buildings otherwise we are just giving up the ghost.”
Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said the city wished Dr Schwartz well with plans to revitalise the neglected building.
“We’ve long held concerns about this truly magnificent building so finally having some certainty around its future will be a relief to all Novocastrians,” she said.
“I look forward to seeing the building restored to the state that it deserves as a heritage jewel in our city’s architectural crown.”
The sale will be complete after relevant statutory approvals are obtained from the NSW Aboriginal Land Council.
About 40 Awabakal Local Aboriginal Land Council members met for an hour before unanimously supporting a recommendation to sell the heritage building on Tuesday night.
“It’s a tremendous result for the Awabakal Land Council but also, as members emphasised, for the Newcastle Community itself,” land council administrator Terry Lawler said.
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