Development group Oxford Investa Property Partners has submitted a Development Application for the second time to North Sydney Council to demolish the existing MLC office in North Sydney, despite the NSW Government placing the building on the state’s heritage register.

The developer intends to construct an entirely new building on the site. Local firm Vault Heritage Consulting have indicated that the building should be demolished, despite the government’s desires for it to remain in place.

Vault Director, Malcom Elliot, believes the removal of the building is the correct outcome due to the objectives of the NSW Government’s own Environmental Planning and Assessment Act.

“Consideration of the heritage impacts cannot be evaluated in isolation and must be balanced against other planning considerations, including the relevant considerations and objectives of the EP&A Act, which promote the orderly and economic use and development of land.”

The building has been listed on the local heritage register for sometime, but was placed on the state’s heritage register in 2021 after the demolition was first floated by Oxford Investa in 2020. The developer believes that a refurbishment is a costly exercise, and that the building would need to be rebuilt almost identically to its predecessor.

Bates Smart, who designed the building in the 1950s, were tasked with creating the replacement. In its place, the practice has designed a $500 million 27-storey modern office tower that channels the spirit of the former MLC building. The project, if given approval, will be North Sydney’s first net zero commercial tower.

“Bates Smart are highly aware of the importance and legacy of this pioneering piece of architecture,” a statement from the practice within the planning documents reads. 

“Our aim is to design a building in the spirit of MLC that is as pioneering for the 21st century as MLC was for the late 20th century, creating a new legacy for North Sydney in the 21st century.”

The National Trust and Docomomo Australia have been quick to come to the defence of the MLC building, launching a campaign to ensure it won’t be demolished. The building was heritage listed by NSW Arts Minister Don Harwin in June 2021 after receiving recommendations from the Heritage Council and Independent Planning Commission. The commission believes that the cost projections made by the developer have been overinflated and that the refurbishment would ensure the building would remain heritage listed by the government.

The resubmitted DA underlines the reasons why demolition is the ideal solution.

“The state cultural heritage significance attributed to the MLC Building, particularly the curtain wall fa├žade and terracotta glazed bricks, will be reduced as the heritage fabric will likely need to be wholly replaced with new building fabric,” says a letter submitted to the council by Vault Heritage Consulting.

The new DA was submitted on 17 December 2021.

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