Council refloats Newcastle, Merewether ocean baths overhauls

City of Newcastle has revived its call for expressions of interest in redeveloping the Newcastle and Merewether ocean baths pavilions.

The council made a similar request for expressions of interest in 2014 and proceeded to a tender phase, but nothing came of the project.

The idea is back on the table after the council announced on Friday that the two landmarks could be redeveloped with restaurants and community facilities.

The council issued concept drawings from architects GHDWoodhead which show an edgy modern box design sitting behind the heritage-listed art deco facade of Newcastle Ocean Baths.

A commercial partnership could allow us to significantly enhance and manage these precious facilities.

Lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes

"The city is committed to improving public and community spaces along our coastline, and a commercial partnership could allow us to significantly enhance and manage these precious facilities in a financially responsible way," lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes said in a statement.

The redevelopments must retain the Newcastle baths facade and include new public change rooms, disabled access, car parking, new seating, shading and community facilities at both sites.

"Redevelopment of Newcastle and Merewether Ocean Baths pavilions is an exciting opportunity to rejuvenate and enhance public assets by capitalising on Newcastle's unprecedented growth in a long-term partnership with the City," Cr Nelmes said. "I'm looking forward to seeing proposals. One condition that we have placed on the EOI is that the baths must always remain free public assets."

The project's revival comes 10 days after Labor and the Independents clashed in the council chamber over whether the city was spending enough on maintaining and improving its assets.

At one point in the debate, Independent councillor John Church referred to Newcastle Oceans Baths as a "tired facility with Acrow props holding up the heritage facade".

The council's infrastructure director, Ken Liddell, said in the council statement on Friday that councillors had made it clear six months ago that they considered the ocean baths their top infrastructure priority in the city.

"In February the councillors came together for a two-day strategic planning workshop where they nominated the restoration of the Newcastle Ocean Baths as the single most important infrastructure project for the city," he said.

"Our staff have spent the past six months developing the EOI as well as resolving a number of potential issues that exist because the Baths sit on crown land. All issues have been resolved and we are now able to take the projects to the market."

The Newcastle baths include 5800 square metres of space, and Merewether 2200 square metres, available under leases of up to 21 years.

Mr Liddell said uses allowed under zoning regulations for both baths included restaurants, cafes or kiosks, community and educational facilities and recreation.

"The EOI will be followed by a tender process for shortlisted respondents before a lease is signed with the City, which is the Reserve Trust Manager of both buildings for the Crown Lands Division of the NSW Government," he said.

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