Bidura, 357 Glebe Point Rd, was built by the Colonial Architect, Edmund Blacket, in 1857, as his home while he built the University of Sydney. It has an extensive listing as a Heritage Item by the City of Sydney, including details of its interior and exterior, the adjacent ballroom, carriageway, garden and setting, and its historical significance. It has one of the most detailed entries in the register.
For most of the twentieth century Bidura was one of the care homes in Glebe for State Wards (for further information about care homes, see the Society’s website). In 1980 a large concrete brutalist Remand Centre and Children’s Court was built at the rear. The building was not secure, and was already out of date by the time it was built. Consequently it was used for its original purpose for only a short period. From then until the present it has been used for training by Community Services, another use for which it is poorly adapted.
Over the years there have been efforts to find satisfactory alternative uses for the Centre, mainly for housing and education, but the nature of the building makes it difficult to adapt, even though it contains quite good facilities for the period when it was built.
In December 2014, as part of an asset stripping exercise, the entire site was sold to a developer for $33 million, presumably for housing. Since then there has been no further action, and no Development Application, or any other application, has been advertised.
It is possible that the new owner is having discussions with Council. Normally these would not be made public until there was a firm proposal. All the area adjacent to Glebe Point Rd is protected as a Heritage Item by the City, and any development at the rear would normally be within the existing envelope. The City has been adamant in this regard on similar sites, and the Society would expect it to be so in this case. Naturally, if it appeared these controls were not being maintained the Society would be very concerned.
A few days after I wrote this Bulletin report, on 14 February, the Herald published an article naming the development company which purchased the site, ACC Development, and its two owners, who are Australian citizens resident in Pyrmont. In an interview the owners are reported as saying they wish to retain the Heritage-listed buildings, but demolish the concrete building at the rear to build ‘a more modern, nicer block of apartments for the area. We are local too, and want to make sure we build something respectful to the area’. This will also mean staying within the City’s development controls for the site.
The Society will keep a close eye on the site to ensure they adhere to these commitments.