Fans of the polarising Sirius building in The Rocks may let out a fist pump with the news the NSW Government will not demolish the public housing estate. Instead, it’s announced it will be preserved, modernised, refurbished and turned into 89 apartments, with additional space for retail and commercial use, by its new owners, JDH Capital.
It’s the latest twist in a four-year battle over the building and other public housing estates in nearby Millers Point after notice of eviction was delivered to its tenants in 2014. The expression of interest for the controversial building (some believe it’s an eyesore, others a treasured example of brutalist architecture and Sydney history) netted the government $150 million. And according to the Sydney Morning Herald, JDH Capital has vowed to “acknowledge and celebrate Sirius’s rich history”.
NSW Property and Housing Minister Melinda Pavey said in a statement that proceeds from the sale would be used to build 300 new social housing dwellings in the city’s outer suburbs.
Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore said in a statement on her Facebook page, “While I’m pleased that this brutalist building will be retained, I’m extremely disappointed that the public asset – purpose built to house people on low incomes – has been sold for market housing after its tenants were evicted from their homes.”
The last resident of the building’s 79 units vacated in January of last year, leaving it empty for the first time in almost 40 years.
When the state government first announced plans to demolish the structure in 2016, Broadsheet wrote about why the building mattered. Writer Alex McKinnon said, “Besides the UTS Tower in Ultimo, Sirius is arguably the most recognisable example of brutalism in Sydney.”
At the time Moore also said that it was “exactly the kind of building our heritage protections are for”.
Heritage NSW unanimously recommended Sirius be heritage listed in 2016, and it was supported by an international heritage watchdog in August 2017. The state government, though, decided against granting it heritage status in October the same year.