FOR years before its demolition the old arts union building at 123 Claisebrook Road sat on a draft heritage inventory, passing hands from Perth council to Vincent and neither going through with granting it any permanent heritage protection.
Built in 1890, for 50 years it was the base of president of the Authorised Newsagents Association of WA, Archibald Russel Somerville.
He lived upstairs and had a shopfront on the ground floor, and was a gutsy purveyor of news. In 1936 he was one of just four newsagents in the area to stock the “Worker’s Star”, a communist newspaper. The intersecting street, Somerville, is named after him.
In the 90s the building was bought by Performing Arts WA and became an arts hub.
Perth council realised the building might be special in 1999, adding it to a “draft” heritage inventory.
But a full heritage assessment was not carried out by Perth council, nor Vincent who inherited it during a boundary change in 2007.
Twenty years later, new owners Sanpoint Pty Ltd said the bricks had turned to powder and nothing could be saved.
It’s unknown how much of that deterioration occurred in the 20 years of inaction.
Performing Arts WA sold the building for $1.16 million in 2016. The area was ripe for development, with news the Barnett government had decided the two nearby concrete batching plants had to go, and the area would soon be more habitable.
In December 2017, the state government’s development assessment panel, with Vincent council’s backing, approved demolition of most of the building. Twelce apartments would go to the rear, and the facade would be preserved.
In mid-2019, the owner applied to knock down the lot, furnishing Vincent council with a report from Stewart Urban Planning that said structural investigations had now found that: “Due to the fragile condition of the building and the constrained nature of the site, it will be difficult to protect the retained building during construction, which could be inadvertently damaged or destroyed as a result of vibration from works or an incident with heavy machinery being utilised on-site.”
Vincent council approved the full demolition unanimously.
As concerned locals mourned the demolition on social media in 2020, Vincent mayor Emma Cole assured them the council required the rebuild “to be an exact replica … same materials and exact form is to be built”.