A 1930s diggers club in northern Sydney is to be transformed into an intergenerational “community hub”.

The Harbord Diggers Club has been reimagined as a suite of intergenerational living quarters and community facilities, designed by a consortium comprising Architectus, CHROFI and JMD Design. The architects won the contract for the club’s redevelopment in 2014 after beating out the four other design teams that were selected to submit concepts. In 2016, Paul Kelly Design was appointed as interior architect for the project.

As part of the brief, the architects were required to produce a design that fostered intergenerational living and associated community activity. Key components of the winning design included reinvigorated club facilities, independent living apartments for more than 100 seniors, and six key functional zones including lounges, bars, restaurants, function areas, cafes, gaming, fitness, childcare and community facilities.

“[The winning scheme] celebrates the location of the precinct with a gentle built form enabling the landscape to predominate, maximising appreciation of the ocean views, capturing the sun in winter and the cooling breezes in summer,” reads a statement by Architectus.

“The design achieves a high-quality outcome with fluid spaces that encourage indoor-outdoor interaction. The built form makes the most of the views by orienting each space to appreciate the best views possible whilst protecting and integrating the natural environment.”


The Harbord Diggers Club was first established in 1930 as a facility for the servicemen returning from France after World War I. No more than a hut perched on Freshwater Beach, the initial “club” was swept away in a storm just three years after opening. The existing club, complete with entertainment and gambling facilities, opened in 1964.

Despite the significant addition of more mixed-use spaces, the redevelopment will retain many of the existing Harbor Diggers Club facilities. The diversification of uses has been pitched as part of an effort to sustain club operations into the future.

“Harbord Diggers Club is no longer sustainable in its current form and has lost $9.2 million over the last six years,” reads a statement on the club’s website. “To sustain its operations for the enjoyment of future generations, the club identified that it must diversify its services and develop new contemporary facilities to ensure it becomes a profitable social enterprise.

“In mid-2011, Harbord Diggers commenced a community consultation, urban design and planning process to prepare a masterplan to guide the future uses of the club, the site, and the Freshwater Headland – now the Harbor Diggers development project. The outcome of the process was approval of a site masterplan, which obtained significant community support.”


Construction on the site has already begun, and is anticipated for completion in 2018. It is expected that the redevelopment will create over 390 jobs and contribute some $21 million per year to the local community.