THE owner of a former orphanage is abandoning plans for a retirement village in favour of a general residential subdivision.
But the proposal, recently lodged with Council, is already generating controversy. The Goulburn Heritage says Council must also insist on refurbishment of the former St John’s Orphanage in Mundy St, also on site.
The 1912 building, operated by the Sisters of Mercy until 1978, has fallen into disrepair, with broken windows and structures and cleared vegetation piled around its surrounds. It is listed as a heritage item on the council’s LEP.
The old orphanage, designed by renowned Goulburn architect EC Manfred, has been broken into and vandalised, owner John Ferrara said.
Mr Ferrara, who bought the property in 2000 for $450,000, initially proposed a retirement village for the 2.6 hectare site in 2004 under SEPP 5 laws.
Nothing besides tree clearing happened on the site until last year when he and Canberra-based developer Peter Madew floated a retirement village, comprising 76 units, plus houses across seven stages.
The old orphanage was to be restored using land sale proceeds, and incorporated into the village.
Mr Madew is no longer in the picture. This week Mr Ferrara said he hadn’t sold any blocks in the subdivision, named Glebe Gardens, as he’d chosen not to proceed.
Now he’s lodged new plans with Council. The Goulburn Airport lessee wants to create 18 lots around the orphanage. The majority would be about 700 square metres, with two being 3500 and 8072sqm.
This time he’s doing the subdivision by himself, rather than a partnership house and land package.
A former hall would be converted into a residence and external repairs, including the roof, windows and veranda of the main building, undertaken.
Mr Ferrara told the Post, and documents confirmed, that he would lodge a separate DA for the orphanage’s adaptive re-use only after the subdivision was approved. His consultants would also lodge a conservation management plan.
But in a submission the Goulburn Heritage Group strongly objected to any proposal that didn’t also include the building’s restoration.
“It is obvious that the intention behind the site subdivision produced by LandTeam is to carve off any suitable individual building blocks that will find a ready market - and leave the magnificent old Orphanage building itself to gradual destruction and demolition by neglect,” the group stated.
“This is a miserable and quite unacceptable proposition - unworthy of a city proud of its built heritage past.”
It called on Council to reject any DA that omitted this aspect.
The Goulburn Post understands Council’s heritage adviser Peter Kabaila has also called for repair and preservation of the former orphanage and historic landscaping and a mechanism tying this to the subdivision.
Mr Ferrara said he hoped to make a $7 million profit from land sales which he’d pour into the orphanage’s restoration.
He estimated this would cost $1.5m.
“We’ve already started on the roof repairs and we’ll eventually fix up the entire building,” he said.
Asked whether he was confident people would buy blocks given the former orphanage’s appearance, he said he didn’t believe people cared how the main building looked.
He hoped to start marketing soon after approval.
Council’s development control manager Richard Davies said councillors would only consider the DA if there were significant objections and if the proponent was seeking to vary planning instruments. As one lot is 600sqm, which is below the 700sqm minimum for the site, this may be a basis for councillors’ consideration.
He could not guarantee planners would call for more detail the former orphanage’s conservation, saying they were bound by fairly stringent legislation not to link the two.
“We will possibly request information on the main building or other strategies to preserve what is deteriorating through various forms of decay,” he said.
“…It would be nice to know that the development of the land could bring it back to some kind of liveability but the legislation is pretty clear.”