Friday, October 15, 2010

Darlinghurst: Heritage Items: Alexandra Flats

Alexandra Flats
- Register of the National Estate, City of Sydney Council Heritage List
This three-storey, sprawling Federation Free Style building, taking up 280-296 Liverpool Street, was home to the Marist Brothers High School from 1911 to 1968. There were then plans to demolish the building and construct some Canberra-style, 13-story apartment building on the site. How fortunate that this never happened.
While the plans were put on hold and the building sat dormant, some very clever artists, actors and musicians decided to use the large rooms for rehearsals, gigs and studio space. One such group, known as the Side F/X collective, squatted in the building for about 20 years. The building is just a hop away from the National Art School so it was very convenient.
I had a friend who squatted at a disused building in Woolloomooloo during the 1970s and 80s. When the state government wanted the site back, my friend and his squatter colleagues refused to budge. The fight went on for a while until the government promised it would subsidise the squatters' rents if they would just move the hell out.
To this day my friend only pays 25 per cent of the market rate for the lease of his very fancy apartment in Rose Bay, in Sydney's east.
The Side F/X collective was evicted from Alexandra Flats in March 1981 when a developer purchased the building for $600,000 and converted the former school into 17 residential apartments.
The following year a three-bedroom apartment with a balcony would have set you back $180,000, which was actually quite a lot for the early 80s.
In March this year a similar property in Alexandra Flats sold for $1.305 million, which is actually quite a lot too.
I've never been inside the flats, so I don't know what I am missing.

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