Plans to redevelop and privatise Newcastle's ocean baths pavilions on 21-year leases have met a mixed response from swimmers and the business community.
City of Newcastle called on Friday for expressions of interest in redeveloping or reusing the pavilions at Newcastle and Merewether ocean baths in public-private partnerships.
It issued concept designs which showed a box-shaped structure behind the heritage-listed Newcastle baths facade, which must be preserved, and said new buildings could include restaurants and function centres.
The council made a similar request for expressions of interest in 2014 and proceeded to a tender phase, but nothing came of the project.
Developers who spoke to the Newcastle Herald questioned whether anyone would invest money to replace the buildings given the lease was for only 21 years.
The tender document for Newcastle Oceans Baths shows the 5800-square metre lease area includes the adjacent car park, all of the pavilion buildings and the apron leading to the pool deck.
It says the ground floor of the buildings is occasionally inundated in heavy seas.
A redevelopment must include at least eight showers showers and eight toilets, a community meeting room, outdoor shade and seating, and storage areas.
The ocean pools would remain free to the public.
The council would lease back the community spaces from the developer.
Newcastle businessmen doubted whether an expensive rebuild of the pavilions was commercially viable.
"No one would ever do it unless they give nothing rent for 21 years and they'd own the building at the end," one said.
Merewether Mackerels winter swimming club secretary Billie Holmes-Fairfull welcomed the idea of renewing the Merewether pavilion.
"It'd be amazing to make it look a bit more inviting. It would be great for the city and tourism," she said, pointing to the success of nearby Merewether Surfhouse.
Newcastle developer Keith Stronach signed a 50-year lease with the council in 2011 before his consortium spent about $6 million building Merewether Surfhouse.
A spokesman for Newcastle Pirates Winter Swimming Club said he hoped the club would retain its room in any redevelopment at Newcastle.
Non-Labor councillors said they were unaware of the baths project until the council issued a media release on Friday afternoon.
Councillor John Church (Newcastle Independents), a critic of the council's spending priorities, said residents had asked him why the community had not been consulted about the plan.
"Many regular users say the plans for much smaller change rooms are completely inadequate," he said.
"Some have told me the architecture is jarring and not sympathetic to the art deco facade."
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