News

Landmark Bulli building ‘under-utilised’

The recently refurbished old Bulli Council Chambers and library.

By MICK ROBERTS.

COMMUNITY leaders and historians are calling for Wollongong City Council to better utilise the old Bulli Council Chambers building and its surrounding grounds.

The former Bulli library remains empty and unused since it was closed and its books moved to Thirroul in May 2009.

Wollongong City Council says the old library space is under license to the Northern Suburbs Community Development Project, who plans to use the space for one of a variety of community services it offers from the building.

When Bulli library was in operation the Northern Suburbs Community Development Project Incorporated held a licence agreement for the rest of the building.

“Now this local, community-based organisation holds a licence for all of this community facility,” a Council spokesperson said.

Council has recently undertaken refurbishments of the heritage listed building, which was home to Bulli Shire Council between the 1920s until its amalgamation with surrounding councils in the 1950s.

The refurbishments of the building include new paint and carpet, a new kitchen and window lintel replacement. The building’s foundations were also underpinned, and parts of the premises were rewired.

The former library, which the licensee plans to use for community activities, hasn’t been in use while the works were carried out, Council says.

“Council will continue to maintain the heritage-listed property as it’s a valuable resource and a landmark building in the northern suburbs,” the spokesperson said.

“We want to see it remain a community resource and as a space that can be used by everyone.”

Wollongong historian Michael Organ says the building is an under-utilised public asset.

“This is a regional significant heritage building, and its heritage value should be prioritised in any planning or discussion regarding future use, whether they are commercial, promotional or as a public facility,” Mr Organ said.

“Council should maintain ownership of the buildings. Ideally it can have mixed uses, both public and commercial. It could be used as a Council information centre for the northern suburbs, and as a tourism centre for the area.

“It could have a café installed which would bring life into this part of the northern suburbs and encourage use of the building. Use can generate income which can then be use to maintain and restore the building.”

Ward One Councillor Jill Merrin said the old Bulli Council Chambers is an important historical building to the northern suburbs.

“We’ve precious little of Wollongong’s European built heritage left, and continue to treat our heritage cavalierly,” Cr Merrin said.

“Bulli has particularly good heritage buildings, many of which have been destroyed, sold to developers, or are being left to go to ruin.”

Cr Merrin said she believes the building should continue to stay in Council’s hands as a community centre.

“With projected population increases in the northern suburbs with Sandon Point and brickworks sites, there is a need to protect the public facilities that we have. Neither of these developments includes community facilities for incoming residents, so they rely on existing infrastructure.”

Cr Merrin said commended the recent repair work, and said Council should now improve the building’s level of use through promoting it further.

”The sheds at the back were offered to the Thirroul Men’s Shed but they turned it down,” she said.

“There are other men’s sheds that are looking for a site so perhaps they could use Bulli.”

A Council spokesperson said there are no plans to sell the building.

About Mick Roberts

A newspaper journalist, writer and local historian, Mick Roberts specialises in Australian cultural history, particularly associated with the Australian hotel and liquor industry. Mick has had an interest in revealing the colourful story of pubs, inns and associated industries in the Sydney and Illawarra regions of NSW for over 30 years. He is currently working on a comprehensive history of the hotel and liquor industry in the Illawarra region of NSW. Besides authoring a number of history books, Mick has owned and operated several community newspapers. He was one time editor of the Wollongong Northern News, The Bulli Times, The Northern Times, The Northern Leader and The Local - all located in the Wollongong region. As a journalist he has worked for Rural Press, Cumberland (News Limted), Sydney based, City News, and is now with Torch Publications.

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