THE owner of the former St John’s Orphanage says he will try to preserve the original part of the building, following a fire.
A large section of roof was destroyed in the 1912 EC Manfred designed structure in Mundy St when fire caught hold on November 4. Extensive parts of the upper storey also sustained damage.
John Ferrara told the Post he had spoken to Council about the building.
“Some parts could be demolished but I have asked for the plans from 1912 to see if it might be possible to preserve the main, original part (facing Mundy St),” he said.
“I bought it because I liked it, not because I wanted to knock it down.”
Asked to clarify what sections could be demolished, Mr Ferrara said he couldn’t say at this stage as his engineer was looking at it. However he pointed out that some parts of the complex were new. He believed sections of the roof were irreparable.
“We’re looking at what can and can’t be saved, and the cost,” he said.
“It might come to a point where it’s too costly. What do you do then?”
Mr Ferrara told the Post he didn’t insure any of his buildings, saying he’d been in business 40 years and he was ahead with any money he would have paid to insurance companies.
He estimated damage costs at $4 million to $5m, but didn’t have a firm figure.
A development application must be lodged for any major repairs or changes to the building.
Mr Ferrara already has a DA with the Council for an 18-lot residential subdivision on land immediately surrounding the building. That proposal was granted deferred commencement, conditional on a schedule of conservation works for the old orphanage, which has not been forthcoming.
Meantime, police are still investigating the fire’s cause.
Detective Inspector Chad Gillies said that no suspects had been identified.
He said while there were rumours that squatters had lit the fire in the vacant structure, there was no firm supporting evidence.
However police are still treating the blaze as suspicious.
Officers are preparing a brief for the coroner, which is necessary to put a monetary value on damage in arson cases.
Mr Ferrara and his engineer have ruled out an electrical fault as electricity was not connected to the structure.