OUR series this week on the good and bad buildings in and around the Newcastle CBD provides a timely look at some of the landmark structures that dominate the historical centre of the state's second-biggest city.
The cranes still sprouting in clusters around the city show the CBD is in the midst of a period of rapid change. No longer is Hunter Street's old Latec House the only building towering over two-and three-storey Victorian and Edwardian shopfronts.
THE SERIES SO FAR:
A wider view shows the city has always been changing, even if the long decline of Hunter Street, thanks to the advent of the suburban shopping mall made it look, for a while, as if time stood still.
Cutting the heavy rail at Wickham has opened up the city to the harbour, as promised, but the streets still look more alive on weekends than on weekdays, as was the case before the Revitalising Newcastle spending began.
The light rail construction program squeezed the life out of too many businesses. COVID-19 lockdowns can have only added to the empty shop windows, of which there are still many.
But the CBD will remain lucrative real estate, and new ventures will open their doors there, even if it takes longer than the boosters had promised.
In the meantime, work continues on the East End redevelopment of the southern side of the Hunter Street mall, an enormous project being carried out by Sydney developer Sam Arnout and his company Iris Capital.
'Facade-ism' - or the construction of a new building behind the thin shell of an old one - has a bad name in heritage terms, but Mr Arnout has gone to considerable lengths to integrate the project's new buildings with the familiar shapes of the old.
The two-stage development has a long way to go but there is enough of it built now to say with confidence that it bodes well for the future.
And that's a future, as the planners have wanted, where high-rise residential is a major feature of the "new" CBD.
As things stand, the city would still be recognisable to someone who hadn't seen it for 30 years, but plenty of old buildings have gone, their history held now only in photos, plans and memorial plaques.
Beauty - in architecture as much as anything - is in the eye of the beholder, but the Newcastle of 2021 is no longer the "industrial city" derided by many who didn't live in it.
It was a good place then.
It may well be a better one now.
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