Eden community 'still in the dark' about development of vacant co-op site, gaping hole in hospitality remains

Aerial shot of Snug Cove and the wharf precinct taken prior to the Welcome Centre construction and the co-op demolition. Photo: DoubleTake Photography
Aerial shot of Snug Cove and the wharf precinct taken prior to the Welcome Centre construction and the co-op demolition. Photo: DoubleTake Photography

With no known plans in place for any redevelopment of the precinct, many community members are feeling frustrated and uncomfortable about the vacant site and the impact on the community, with peak tourism season approaching.

Corresponding with ACM this week, a spokesperson from the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) said Property and Development NSW was considering options to activate the site in the short-term and continuing to explore feasible options to revitalise the site "so locals and visitors can continue to enjoy the harbour location now and into the future".

"The NSW government has invested in excess of $75million in the Port of Eden to deliver improved social and economic benefits to the community, including the Eden Wharf extension and new Welcome Centre," the spokesperson said.

Eden Chamber of Commerce president Eric Wolske said he hadn't yet heard anything regarding long term development of the vacant site.

"I am hopeful we get some answers this week. We will be meeting with Port Authority and DPIE to talk about short and medium term solutions for food vans to operate in the precinct over the Christmas period," Mr Wolske said.

Eden Chamber has just submitted an application, for almost $700,000, through the Black Summer Bushfire Recovery Grants Program for commercially fitted containers.

"We need security around what area of the wharf precinct can be used to house these businesses," Mr Wolske said.

"But we need to know what the longer term planning is for the area and are all still in the dark about that. It needs to be addressed so there is a level of comfort for the community.

"The discussion needs to be around what will bring visitation back to that location, ultimately we need plans put in place and to get those out for community consultation."

The DPIE spokesperson said any future development proposals will complement the harbour's tourism attractions and working port functions to "deliver economic and community benefits, and will be subject to stakeholder and community consultation".

The bustling Wharfside Cafe. Photo: DoubleTake Photography

The bustling Wharfside Cafe. Photo: DoubleTake Photography

Diana Stojanovic was the business owner of the Wharfside Cafe for 20 years, and said the demolition of the co-op building was a great loss to tourism for Eden.

"Visitors loved it, the naturalness, the working port, the unique view," she said.

One of the only original lessees left prior to the eviction of the site after it was deemed dangerous, Ms Stojanovic had tried in vain to extend her lease for many years and had invested more than $150,000 into the building.

"It was a busy café, a decent business," she said.

"When they started talking about revitalising the harbour, we were involved in meetings early on about development and we assumed we were part of the plan.

"The new wharf was built, cruise ships started to come, and once they could alight the town was full, it was amazing."

Cruise ship in Snug Cove. Photo: DoubleTake Photography

Cruise ship in Snug Cove. Photo: DoubleTake Photography

According to Ms Stojanovic, the building was already fraught with many problems long before DPIE identified the building as being beyond repair.

There has been speculation about the use of the site for parking rather than a retail development and Ms Stojanovic confirmed parking in the precinct was always an issue.

"It came to light that the area under the building was zoned for transport, the businesses down there were just collateral damage, they found a loophole to evict them," she said.

Tenants of the wharf building were evicted in September 2020 after the building was deemed beyond repair, but the state of the building was bad for a long time before that, according to tenants. Photo: Denise Dion

Tenants of the wharf building were evicted in September 2020 after the building was deemed beyond repair, but the state of the building was bad for a long time before that, according to tenants. Photo: Denise Dion

"The Welcome Centre is where it deserves to be, it is beautiful and unique. Why couldn't they have built that where we were and extended it further to house the amazing café precinct that was there?

"It's iconic, it attracts people to the town. $40,000 had been spent previously on concept plans for a new development which included the existing businesses, but nothing could go ahead without a longer lease," Ms Stojanovic said.

She has since relocated to the Gold Coast and said while she is not terribly bitter she felt sad for Eden.

"I hope that the townspeople fight for hospitality to be reinstated," Ms Stojanovic said.

"Obviously we have to look after pedestrians and parking, but by the same token, all over Europe everywhere you go, tourists want to get as close to the water as they can, that's the buzz, the attraction."

Looking out to Snug Cove, taken from Drift bar and restaurant on the upper level of the co-op building prior to its demolition. Photo: DoubleTake Photography

Looking out to Snug Cove, taken from Drift bar and restaurant on the upper level of the co-op building prior to its demolition. Photo: DoubleTake Photography

The DPIE spokesperson said they were pleased to see a number of further development opportunities proposed in Eden "that will further contribute to revitalisation of the local tourism and retail economy".

The project webpage will be kept updated and the DPIE encouraged people to register for updates as they occur.

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This story Eden community 'still in the dark' about development of vacant co-op site, gaping hole in hospitality remains first appeared on Magnet.