Newcastle lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes committed to conducting community consultation on the future of Merewether and Newcastle Ocean Baths before the new year, during a public meeting held on the weekend.
The meeting's organiser, however, says she remains unconvinced the City of Newcastle has justified its move to seek interest from private developers before going to residents.
Cr Nelmes said she understood the "anxiety and concern" provoked by concept drawings accompanying council's request for expressions of interest to redevelop and reuse the baths' pavilions, saying, "I don't like the renders either".
"Nothing will happen on any of these sites without much more extensive community consultation," she said, "And without any proposals coming back to the elected council."
The concept drawings for Newcastle Ocean Baths showed a modern box design sitting behind the baths' heritage-listed art deco facade, which must be retained.
The renders accompanied council's request for expressions of interest in redeveloping or reusing the Newcastle and Merewether pavilions with a potential for leases of up to 21 years. The request said plans could include restaurants and function centres.
Saturday's meeting at Newcastle Ocean Baths was the first event hosted under the "Save Our Ocean Baths" banner. Merewether's Jessica Miller is coordinating a campaign to stop the EOI process after a petition she created garnered over 4500 signatures online.
Council's manager of property and facilities Adam Vine addressed the gathering of around 100 people.
Mr Vine denied council was "starting privatisation" of the baths, after he was questioned by an attendee.
"This is really the first step in understanding what might be possible," he said. "We're simply asking the question of the market to say, 'Do you have an interest in going on a journey with us?'"
He said seeking expressions of interest was an action included in council's plan of management for the sites and that the plan "clearly states" the baths are on crown land and have a public recreation purpose the council must uphold.
Ms Miller said the meeting affirmed broader support for her group's three demands: for council to stop the EOI process, to restore and maintain the baths for its current uses and for consultation to "start right now".
She described Cr Nelmes' pledge to bring community consultation forward from 2020 to this year as "fantastic news", however, she said council representatives had not explained why council was seeking interest from the private sphere before asking residents what they wanted.
"The truth is they don't need private investment to do the simple restoration the community wants," she said.
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