The restoration of the 1890s-built Shepherds Hill Cottage is expected to be completed early 2021, with final work back underway and ahead of an expression of interest process to identify potential operators.
The cottage was originally used a mess hall for colonial military officers and sustained severe damage in the 2015 Super Storm that caused tens of millions of dollars to the city and black outs for up to five days.
Extensive repairs and restoration work to the outside of the Cottage were completed last year as part of a $730,000 project, which included a new roof and plumbing, repair of wooden windows and renewal of cladding, posts and beams.
The current works include an internal fit out, followed by construction of new outdoor toilets, a storeroom, driveway and parking area, which were allocated $285,000 in this year’s budget.
The restoration project is part of City of Newcastle’s record $116 million 2020/21 capital works program and will complement the landmark Bathers Way coastal pathway, which is currently under construction at South Newcastle Beach.
"With final approval from the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment now secured, we are completing the work required to open this incredible, historic site for public use," Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said.
“A heritage architect is overseeing all work on the 182sqm building, which sits on one of the most spectacular pieces of real estate in Newcastle at the top of King Edward Park, offering stunning views of the Pacific Ocean, Port Stephens and the Newcastle coastline through to Dudley.
"With its prime position on the Bathers Way coastal pathway it will become a major community asset once restored and I look forward to seeing what options for use are proposed during the expression of interest process.”
Shepherds Hill Cottage forms part of Shepherds Hill Defence Group site, which sits on Crown Land managed by the City.
A Conservation Management Plan (CMP) for the site was endorsed by the NSW Heritage Council midway through 2019 after a revised CMP was placed on public exhibition in late 2018.
Once the restoration works are completed early next year, City of Newcastle will run an EOI process for a prospective tenant. The successful tenderer will need to comply with the Shepherds Hill CMP and obtain Heritage NSW and development application approval of their proposal.
The cottage, battery observation post and gun emplacement were originally designed to defend Newcastle's burgeoning coal port after the 1878 Royal Commission into Colonial Defences.
More recently, Shepherd’s Hill Cottage was being partially utilised as the headquarters for Marine Rescue Newcastle prior to the building being damaged in 2015. The organisation has been without a permanent home since that time but will now be moving to a Crown Land site managed by City of Newcastle on the Stockton foreshore. Marine Rescue has accepted a 21-year peppercorn lease for the parcel of land, which will allow the group to construct a new purpose-built command post.
Marine Rescue’s communications tower, which is still on the Shepherd’s Hill site, is expected to be removed by the end of October.