Published Date: June 9, 2017
Source: Property HQ
Australia Post’s plan to sell Sydney’s historic GPO building has been described as “scandalous” and puts the complex at risk of neglect, according to the Head of the National Trust NSW.
The iconic building is reportedly being sold to Singaporean developer Far East Organisation for $150 million. According to their website, Far East has invested more than $2 billion in partnerships and acquisitions in prime Australian locations since 2013.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Premier Gladys Berejiklian has washed her hands of the controversial sale, saying she won’t be speaking out in favour of keeping the building in public ownership.
This is in stark contrast to Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore, who has condemned the sale, declaring the Victorian-era “masterpiece” a 19th-century equal to the city’s most famous building, the Opera House.
Sydney’s GPO has been situated in Martin Place since 1830 and the current building “has defined the heart of Sydney’s central business district since 1874″, according to a heritage report.
The original section of the Sydney GPO – designed by colonial architect James Barnet – opened in 1874 and was the centre of the NSW postage system until 1996, according to the National Archives.
Architect and National Trust NSW branch president Clive Lucas, who specialises in restoring historical buildings, said the building was one of, if not the most, important colonial post offices in the country.
“A nation that forgets its history is a nation that has no future,” said Lucas.
Australia Post says the sale has been cleared by the Foreign Investment Review Board but still has to be signed off by Commonwealth Heritage.
Mr Lucas said he was concerned underfunding of heritage policing would mean the building could be neglected.
Fairfax Media has seen plans that purport to show Far East intends to make significant changes to the internal structure of the GPO, including a row of luxury shops on the ground floor that would extend into the lower ground floor, which is currently open space.
Other plans include filling the void in the middle of the ground floor, allowing for greater cafe access, and removal of columns that were part of the heritage renovation in 1999.
In a statement, Australia Post said: “The proposed sale of Sydney GPO has no impact on the heritage protections covering the site but remains subject to approval by Commonwealth Heritage.
“If the sale proceeds, we will work with the Department of Environment and Energy who administer the Commonwealth Heritage List, and other authorities, to further ensure heritage values are protected.”
“With its attractive urban centres, developed economy, well-regulated business environment and stable market conditions, Australia presents an attractive market for Far East Organisation to build a diversified, balanced real estate portfolio,” it says.