The rest of the Queen’s Wharf complex could go the same way as its landmark tower after lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes said on Thursday it was nearing the end of its “useful life”.
A demolition crew will close off the tower on Monday and start pulling down the 40-metre phallic structure on September 17.
Newcastle City Council, which owns Queen’s Wharf, will aim to redevelop the precinct’s two large commercial buildings as a public-private partnership when their leases expire in several years.
“It was built 30 years ago with fairly lightweight fabrics with a mind that it would last a certain amount of time and need to be renewed,” Cr Nelmes said.
“Obviously it’s under commercial lease at the moment, and, in the time when that comes to an end, that would be a time to look at what sort of partnerships we could have to refresh this whole area.”
Cr Nelmes said she had “no problem” with the buildings’ architecture and said they had made a valuable contribution to the city 30 years ago, when they were opened by Queen Elizabeth II.
“In 1988, when this foreshore area was opened up, it was quite a revelation and a very big credit to former lord mayor Joy Cummings for the work that she did in opening up the foreshore precinct with the council of the time, because it was rail yards, and it was just industrial land.
“And that was the first glimpse, back then, of what Newcastle could be in the future.
“I think they did a really amazing job 30 years ago at picking something that was a little maritime and appropriate lightweight construction, but it will come to the end of its useful life.
“Just a few years ago we spent a significant amount on maintenance of the whole site.”
Any future design for the area would be “low-rise” and remove pedestrian “pinch points”.
Cr Nelmes said the tower demolition was primarily about cost – the council says it would have run up a $1.6 million maintenance bill in the next four years – but it was also about changing perceptions of Newcastle.
“This council has really aggressively pursued bringing Newcastle into this century and also shouting from the rooftops, ‘We’re open for business, we’re a great community and it’s a great place to live.’”
The council confirmed a report in Wednesday’s Newcastle Herald that the tower will be closed off to the public late on Sunday before a demolition crew moves in the next day to fence off the area.
Mayfield-based contractor Major Projects Group will remove the structure over three our four nights, starting on Monday, September 17.
They will detach and lower the top dome and observation deck on the first night, followed by the main shaft and lower sections of the tower.
The council will replace the tower with synthetic grass, “rubberised surfaces”, seating, tree planters and Alexander Palms.
“This is a temporary solution for place activation with an anticipated lifespan of up to five years,” Cr Nelmes said.
“A permanent solution for the area will be addressed in the master planning for the whole foreshore, which will include community consultation.”
The tower would have been in the line of sight of some upper-floor apartments in Iris Capital’s $700 million mall redevelopment, but Cr Nelmes that was not a factor in its demise.
“It actually wan’t in my personal decision-making, but it’s a good point to consider,” she said.
“Views are not owned, so councils are quite well aware of making decisions that aren’t really about personal views. For me, it’s more the cityscape.”
She said anyone lamenting the loss of the view from the observation tower could gain a similar vantage from Christ Church Cathedral.
“For those who want one last go at a climb, there is still time until Sunday afternoon,” she said.