DEVELOPER Peter Madew admits the old St John’s Orphanage looks a bit of an eyesore right now.
But that’s about to change in the quest to transform the surrounds, and eventually the building into an independent living retirement village, he says.
The 1912 EC Manfred-designed structure in Mundy St once housed some 2000 children. Run by the Sisters of Mercy, it closed in 1978. Current owner John Ferrara bought the property and surrounding 2.4 hectares earlier last decade for $450,000, with his then partner, Ray Ekinci.
Mr Madew, of Canberra-based Madew Development Group, is undertaking a joint venture project with Mr Ferrara. They plan to build 76 units and houses in seven stages spanning three to four years.
Mr Madew will help fund and manage much of the construction.
It’s been nearly eight years since they gained council approval for the retirement village, passed under SEPP 5 laws.
The passage of years has taken a toll on the old building and the developer is keen to make a start.
“We decided back then (2004) that the cost of development was too great,” Mr Madew told the Post.
“Property prices have come on a bit in the past few years to a level where we think the development is feasible.”
The DA approval is still “alive,” thanks to tree clearing and some cleaning up on site in 2009.
The heritage-listed orphanage will be retained, in line with approval conditions.
Mr Madew said it would cost millions to restore the structure.
Its restoration won’t start in earnest until stage three when funds from earlier land sales are flowing. “(But) we have to make it attractive enough in the first stage so people are not putting up with an eyesore,” he said.
“That will involve replacing windows, painting and repairing holes in the wall. We hope to get it to a stage where people don’t think it’s a ghost town.”
The partners plan to restore the front garden, undertake general landscaping, install a recreation area and construct about 10 units in the main building.
They’re also proposing an indoor swimming pool in the courtyard area.
In recent weeks signs have been posted around the property edges marketing 13 lots in two stages.
Advertising will be pitched locally and in the Southern Highlands.
Mr Madew said the two and three-bedroom units would range in price from $295,000 to $330,000 and occupy an average 335 square metres.
People must be over 55 and not working fulltime to qualify. Selection is through an expression of interest process. But a lease agreement will apply.
Mr Madew said while people would buy their houses and units they’d be asked to sign a 99-year lease on the block, which remained under the partners’ ownership.
The lease agreement grants the right to occupy the house. Residents would have certain rights, similar to a body corporate and the owner has outside maintenance responsibilities.
“The idea (of this arrangement), which is also done in Canberra, is to encourage the developer to build appropriate buildings that would last, and not be knocked down,” Mr Madew said.
As required in retirement village developments, emergency call alarms and accessibility would be hallmarks.
To this end, partial levelling of the property will be undertaken Over the next few months the developer will be tidying up the site, removing dead trees, clearing grass, repairing windows and demolishing several ancillary buildings previously approved in the DA.
“It’s always contingent on getting expressions of interest so we’ll do a few stages at a time and see,” Mr Madew told the Post.
“The local market is strong but we expect this to be a three to four year development to completion because we don’t think Goulburn can absorb that many houses at once.”
Mr Madew has Goulburn links. He’s the son-in-law of former Goulburn Mulwaree councillor, Robert Craig. Cr Craig absented himself from discussion on the project when it first came before Council.
The developer has also built retirement type units in Major drive and his family company has undertaken similar developments in the Southern Highlands, namely Mt Gibraltar and Annesley, Bowral. But resurrection of the orphanage plan is expected to re-ignite heritage concerns aired back in 2004.