For more than a year the Glebe Society has been inquiring about the deserted building at 274 Glebe Point Rd. Originally built as a motel in the 1960s, it was purchased by the Wesley Mission in 1974, and adapted for use as an aged care facility housing 70 residents. It was named the R J Williams Lodge.
In February 2010, an 84 year old male resident fell over a balcony and died. A City Council inspection found that the balcony handrails were in poor condition and a potential danger to residents and the public. The Council ordered the removal and replacement of the unsafe handrails. At that time a spokesman for the Wesley Mission, Mr Graeme Cole, said fixing the Lodge would cost ‘many hundreds of thousands of dollars which could not be justified on such an old building’.
In April 2010 the Wesley Mission announced that it intended to close the facility. The Mission said ‘an in-principle decision has been made to demolish the building and replace it with a modern new centre providing similar services’. The press release added that ‘Wesley is committed to providing services for people in need, and we want to continue working in Glebe for many decades to come’.
It was four years later, in December 2014, that the Mission lodged a development application for the Lodge to be used for affordable housing. Contrary to Wesley’s statement in 2010, the DA did not propose the demolition of the existing building but rather, extensive modifications including glassed-in balconies, a rooftop terrace, and a café. The existing parking spaces under the building were to be used as storage units.
The Glebe Society held a public meeting in January 2015 attended by members and residents close to the Lodge. Following that meeting the Society’s submission to Council expressed its ‘disappointment that this building, designated by Council as one of the three most detracting in Glebe Point Rd, is to remain, because its bulk and form is so out of character with the Conservation Area’. There was also concern that the number of on-site parking spaces was inadequate for the proposed residents. The Society supported the provision of further affordable housing in Glebe, and was in favour of a revised plan for adaptive re-use of the existing building if it had to remain.
Council rejected the DA in March 2015 and since then the Wesley Mission has remained silent about any further plans for the building. It has now been deserted for nearly eight years. The Society wrote to the Wesley Mission in February 2017 asking for any information about its plans for the proposed use of this valuable property. A lengthy exchange of correspondence continuing until May of this year provided no meaningful response to the Society’s request, other than demonstrating the Mission’s superior skills in obfuscation and buck-passing.
Council rejected [Wesley Mission’s] DA in March 2015 and since then the Wesley Mission has remained silent about any further plans for the building. It has now been deserted for nearly eight years.
Go to the Wesley Mission’s webpage and you’ll find the blog page of the CEO, the Rev. Keith Garner. ‘Be inspired and challenged by our CEO as he reflects upon Christian faith, social justice, current issues and his personal journey’, it says. It seems that a major concern of Mr Garner is homelessness and the lack of affordable housing. He writes, ‘It costs governments and taxpayers less in the long run to immediately provide people with secure long term accommodation than to continue the ad hoc and piecemeal approach which currently characterises much of the funding process. At Wesley Mission we also believe there needs to be a shift towards more flexible and sensitive criteria for housing facilities in both in the public system and community sector so that the needs of all types and sizes of families are met’.
The society has received a letter from Mr Cole, the Mission spokesman, who back in 2010 said ‘Wesley is committed to providing services for people in need, and we want to continue working in Glebe for many decades to come’. In his letter of 30 May, Mr Cole wrote without any detail that ‘the Mission is currently considering plans for the future of the R J Williams Lodge’. It seems the Mission is facing ‘a number of challenges relating to resources and timing’. And, apparently, a challenge in keeping the community informed.
Mr Cole wants to assure the community that when and if the time comes to ‘finalise plans’, the Glebe Society will not be favoured over any other ‘stakeholders’. All of them ‘will be informed at the same time’, he writes, ‘that is only appropriate and fair to all’. The community can take comfort that if the Mission decides to share its plans with residents the communication will be non-discriminatory.
Members might wish to contact the Rev. Keith Garner with their views about this matter. He can be contacted via Mr Cole, whose email address is firstname.lastname@example.org