Options to Save Sirius

Sydney, 22 December 2015

According to the SOS – Save Our Sirius Foundation, there are many middle-ground options which may be explored so the Sirius Apartments in The Rocks are retained and all stakeholders including the State Government can achieve a win.

The Foundation is chaired by Shaun Carter, NSW President of the Australian Institute of Architects, whose glimpses of Sirius’s unique stacking cubic components whilst crossing the Harbour Bridge at a young age originally inspired him to study architecture.

Mr Carter commented, “Rather than just sell the building, flatten it and build a luxury apartment tower, the State Government has an incredible opportunity to explore a middle-ground solution.”

“This solution could allow the uplift of an adjacent site, capturing some value from the development of market housing to restore Sirius and add to its sinking fund for ongoing maintenance. Sirius could help increase the State Government’s allocation of Key Worker accommodation whilst preserving some social housing on the site,” he said.

According to Mr Carter, to preserve a significant piece of our architectural heritage whilst also adding the social benefit of affordable and social housing is a great opportunity to open the conversation around the meaning of value of development.

“That good development needs to provide a benefit to not only the inhabitants of the building, but also the society the building will serve. A value-led development has four bottom lines rather than just one; these being Financial, Social, Environmental and Cultural. This should be a minimum standard of development as we re-think and reshape our city, keeping some of the value of the uplift to make a better street, suburb, community or city,” he said.

Sirius was originally built to house those social housing families and older people who were displaced during the controversial redevelopment of The Rocks during the 1960s and 1970s. Its construction allowed for the lifting of the Green Bans, which had halted work in The Rocks.

Sirius has a long and strong association with past and present residents of the Millers Point and The Rocks community, including descendants of maritime workers. It is seen by many as a monument to social struggle and the public voice.

Why demolish such an icon? Shouldn’t we be looking at keeping buildings that really matter?

Rather than sell to a developer, the State Government could ask for submissions from consortia that would be a collaboration between the building and development industry, financiers, community housing providers, NGOs, and a range of other community support organisations.

One option is for a future owner to retain the building as social and affordable housing, operated by a community or not-for-profit housing provider. With development opportunities nearby, a new apartment building development would create profit for the Government and allow funds to be put into upgrading the Sirius building and its ongoing maintenance.

These ideas are in line with Minister for Social Housing Brad Hazzard’s recently launched Communities Plus, which is a new generation of world-class social, affordable and private housing in New South Wales. The integrated housing developments will be delivered in partnership with the private, non-government and community housing sectors.

An additional opportunity is similar to the City of Sydney’s transferrable heritage floorspace scheme, which has been in place for over twenty years and allows the retention of heritage buildings whilst transferring development rights to other sites in the city.

The NSW Government has made more than $116 million since it began selling off its public housing in August 2014. To date 47 government owned houses have been sold in Millers Point, with no commitment from the State Government to build new social housing inside the Local Government Area with the funds gained through the Millers Point sell off. All new reported housing is located in the suburbs of Sydney.

Myra Demetriou, an 89-year-old tenth-floor resident of Sirius said, “I can no longer negotiate steps and that’s why I moved to Sirius. I have been very happy here.”

Another Sirius resident, Cherie Johnson lamented, “You should see the inside of Sirius. It really is beautiful. It kills me to think it could be torn down.”

For further information:

Shaun Carter – Chairman

SOS – Save Our Sirius Foundation

0421 997 223