After a year of heated public meetings, protests and a celebrity-led community campaign, the first stage of the controversial Bondi Pavilion upgrade will begin early next year, should new plans lodged by Waverley Council be approved.
Fronting onto Sydney’s famous Bondi Beach, the Pavilion has been used by locals and beachgoers since 1929, but has gone without a major upgrade for decades.
The $15.2 million makeover will restore the Pavilion’s heritage facade, and upgrade facilities in the northern courtyard, including doubling the number of female toilets.
But it will avoid the most controversial elements of the original redevelopment plans, including changes to the building’s first floor and the music studios in the southern courtyard.
Even so, the remodelled plans are unlikely to be universally embraced by locals.
Following a fractious consultation period last year, Mayor Sally Betts said the council was “really excited” with the current development plans, which were formally lodged on Friday.
“We have been working on this for years and years,” she said on Monday.
“We have a responsibility to the people of Waverley, the people of NSW and the people of Australia to make this an iconic building.”
As part of the upgrade, the Pavilion will get a new museum and exhibition space, a new airconditioned pottery studio, a larger toilet block, and a new community space with the capacity to become another music studio.
The building’s heritage facade will also be restored, meaning the popular Bucket List cafe’s glass rotunda, which overlooks the beach, will be removed. The cafe’s premises will also be subject to a new commercial tender process.
The internal courtyards will be re-paved and landscaped, and the Pavilion’s entrance on Campbell Parade, which is currently used as a council car park, will be grassed and converted to pedestrian-only access.
However, the “driving force” behind the upgrade was the need for more bathroom facilities, Cr Betts said, with the existing toilet block unable to cope with 50,000 beach goers who descend on Bondi Beach on a busy summer day.
Cr Betts said the community had “certainly told us what they want” and, as a result, plans to relocate the music studios and the pottery space out of the building had been abandoned.
General manager of Waverley Council Cathy Henderson said the council hoped construction would begin by March next year and finished by the middle of 2019, during which time the Pavilion would remain open to the public.
However, the plans hinge on the approval of the Greater Sydney Commission, which will review the development application after it goes on public exhibition within the next fortnight.
The $15.2 million makeover, which will be fully funded by the council, is the first phase in a $39 million refurbishment of the historic building, after the council decided last year to split the development into two stages.
It followed a “Save Bondi Pavilion” community backlash against a proposal to convert the first floor of the pavilion into areas for cafes and restaurants, which locals said amounted to a privatisation of public space.
More than 700 submissions opposing the plans were received by the council, and hundreds of people attended meetings and protests.
The campaign drew support from actor Michael Caton and musician Ben Lee, who played gigs at the Pavilion as a young artist.
On Monday, Cr Betts rejected the suggestion there was a “secret plan” to privatise the Pavilion, and said any decisions on the second stage of the development, including whether or not it will proceed, would not be made until a new council is elected.
The council’s fate is currently in limbo as it awaits the outcome of Woollahra’s High Court challenge to the government’s proposed merger of Waverley, Woollahra and Randwick councils.