Demolition begins on Marian College project | PHOTOS

Buildings features with ‘K’ painted on them are dotted around the former Marian College site in Clinton Street where a major redevelopment is underway.

The ‘K’ stands for keep, in reference to items including windows, doors, sandstone cappings and window surrounds, cedar and much more, deemed worthy of retention.

Demolition has started in preparation for a $17 million redevelopment of the old Catholic secondary school site. The project has been on hold while developer Nicolas Daoud completed the Crown Apartments at Wollongong.

The man who bought the 12,600 square metre property in March, 2014 after falling in love with the property said he was ready to roll on the Marian College overhaul. It will include new buildings fronting Clinton Street, housing 51 serviced apartments and retail at ground level, 17 residential villas at the site’s rear, off the Bourke Street aspect, a convention centre, possibly a restaurant and a museum commemorating the property’s history. The plan won approval in December, 2014.

Mr Daoud lodged a modification this year reducing the number of apartments from 96 to 51, spanning two buildings. Some have been enlarged to cater for what he described as growing demand. He is awaiting council approval.

“We don’t want to compete with local motels,” he said. 

“These apartments will be for people who want to stay for a few weeks, a few months or whatever. We wanted them different to a motel, with more amenities.” 

The modification also adapted the buildings’ design so they didn’t “overpower” the historic chapel and former convent, both of which would be retained.

Mr Daoud said he’d already received healthy interest in the villas from people who wanted to live close to town. Former Mayor Geoff Kettle previously said he’d be buying one.

Mr Daoud told The Post that he would no longer stage the total development as he originally intended.

“It’s very difficult to do. We haven’t worked out the logistics yet but we will do it all at once,” he said.

Demolition off 11 buildings is expected to be finished before Christmas, ready for excavation. Development applications will be lodged for the individual elements and Mr Daoud hope to complete the overall project in 12 to 18 months.  

The 1890s Our Lady of Mercy chapel and the main administration building, a former convent, will be retained. Mr Daoud said he’d spent thousands of dollars restoring the chapel because it was leaking. 

Meantime, caretakers Peter Trama and wife Pauline have been contracted to complete demolition. So far they’ve employed 10 people previously on unemployment benefits.

“A lot of care is being taken to fit in with the old buildings. More time is being spent on dismantling,” Mr Trama said.

Along the way they’re salvaging building features, such as the striking sandstone window surrounds, bricks, and cedar that can be used elsewhere or in a museum planned for the site.

Mr Trama said he and his workers found two pairs of school shoes, an old plastic desk top and a wooden spoon between a brick wall cavity.

“We also found a stained glass window between two walls that was all covered up in the old (1870s) boarders accommodation. It will be dated, restored and kept,” he said.

Likewise, decorative tin work on the ceiling of the same building will be retained along with iron lace on the 1904 Saint John’s structure inside the courtyard. Plans are also afoot to move a central courtyard fountain to the Clinton Street frontage and to plant a rose garden.

“There will be a museum in the old convent with some of the items we’ve found because these are people’s memories. They’re important,” Mr Trama said.

Mr Daoud too said he wanted to create something special for the community.

“Personally, I’m very excited about it,” he said.

“You promise yourself something and you just want to get it done. The idea of having a chapel where people can get married, food and accommodation is something unique.”