Maintaining the Charm of Yesteryear in Re-adaptive Use

Maintaining the Charm of Yesteryear in Re-adaptive Use

Amidst the ongoing transformation of our urban landscape, with iconic development projects embracing modern, sophisticated, contemporary design concepts in their quest to provide the ultimate lifestyle experience, it’s particularly refreshing to have been involved with the re adaptive use of the City Ford site, a building of such great historical significance.

The history of the City Ford Building (formerly Hastings Deering Building) is fascinating.

The post depression economy in NSW saw increased ownership of motor vehicles, giving rise to demand for car servicing.   The building itself, constructed between 1937 and 1938, was purpose built to meet the car servicing demand & demonstrated the evolving adaption of functionalist design, using integrative technologies and construction systems.    The building itself was progressive and unique for the era, not only in Australia but worldwide.   The innovative design would include:-

  • Dual set of spiral ramps giving independent up and down access throughout the six levels of the building, further complicated by a continuous camber. This ramp system would be subsequently patenCity Ford - Spiral Stairsted worldwide in the name of Samuel Lipson and Hastings Deering Limited.
  • Reinforced concrete stairs located in an open glazed Atrium, between the spiral ramps providing a natural light source to all four sides of the building.
  • Each floor was designed with a camber to allow drainage of fuel and oil which was incorporated into the structural honeycomb designed slab.
  • Stanley roof trusses with clear spans of over 100 feet.
  • Modern lavatory accommodation and showering facility, which provided hot water to all of the staff over appropriate locations throughout all of the building.
  • A pneumatic fully integrated communication system, the first of its kind in this country.

The innovative design, technologies & construction systems used in the building,  so progressive for the era in which it was constructed, would lead to its ‘heritage listing’.    The heritage significance specifically pertaining to:-

  • The example it presents of Inter War Industrial Architecture in the functionalist style.
  • The strong association with the commercial career of Harold Hasting Deering and his association with prominent Sydney architect, Samuel Lipson.
  • The demonstration of innovative technologies and construction systems to facilitate car servicing in the city.
  • The high degree of integrity the building retains in relation to it’s original design. It presents a rare example of a multi storey car parking & servicing structure from the era.

City Ford - Original Car

The heritage status of both the building and the heritage listed artifacts contained within the building would present many challenges during the redevelopment of the site.

Adding to the historical significance of the building, is its role during World War 2.   The building was taken over by the Government, with the main show room fitted out as a machine shop.   Every floor except the sixth floor was given over to war production with machinery turning out shell cases and munitions.     After the war was over the building re-opened as a Ford Dealership, recognising the dominance of the Ford Motor Company during this time.

The Redevelopment Project

In November, 2009 LTS Lockley were engaged by the developer to undertake the initial Detail & Level Survey of the site, to consult on the design of, and prepare, a five lot Stratum Subdivision, which would be required to achieve the redevelopment blueprint,  for a mixed use development incorporating:-

  • A Woolworths Supermarket
  • A Medical Centre
  • A Valet Parking Facility
  • Commercial Offices
  • 22 Luxury Residential Apartments

Given the heritage status of both the building itself and the many artifacts contained in the building across all floors, the initial Detail & Level Survey was particularly complex.   Every feature, including columns, windows, floors, ramps, the integrated telephone system and the expansive atrium had to be surveyed intricately, as they were to remain and be integrated into the new design of the building.

The developers original intent was to sell each precinct to investors based on a building Stratum Subdivision, however at the time of purchase they were unaware that the heritage listing would play such a significant role in the ability to subdivide the building into its mixed use lots.

Ultimately, the development application approval not only embraced the Conservation Management Strategy but conditioned the construction in such a way that the building heritage would form part of the design.  It required the developer to refurbish all of the historical attributes, integrate them into the new design and formulate a masterplan addressing the financial and management processes that would allow these artifacts to be maintained in perpetuity.

The heritage items to be preserved, covered all floors of the building, effecting all proposed ownership groups and would include, The Exposed Concrete Waffle Slab Structure, The Roof Truss System, The Spiralling Sets of Ramps, The Original Lift Lobby, The Glazed Stair Atrium, The Pneumatic Phone System and The Lavatory & Hot Water System throughout the building.

While these conditions were reasonable for one owner, the challenge was to prepare documentation to allow Stratum and Strata Subdivision of the building which could result in multiple owners based on 22 strata residential units, 18 strata commercial lots and a consortium of owners for the remaining retail, medical and car parking lots.

The role of LTS Lockley would become instrumental in providing land titling advice and managing the expectations of many stakeholders, which included the client, architects, engineers, planners, lawyers, historians, the Sydney City Council and the subsequent owners of the land once the building was complete, to develop a workable strategy and resolution to these many land titling issues, allowing the redevelopment to proceed in accordance with required timeframes and budget.

Councils original development application did not envisage such a diverse group of owners, it was therefore imperative to make sure costs would be collected from this diverse group.

The main issues to be addressed in the titling solution included:-

  • Access Issues – to allow all the historical artifacts to be viewed by the building users and be maintained & repaired, by Council or their agent, which sometimes would include motor vehicle and crane access.
  • Cost Distribution – how would the cost of the maintenance & repair of the many heritage artifacts be equitably distributed amongst the new ownerships groups.
  • Enforcement of Costs how would we enforce the distribution of costs.

Our solution would comprise:-

Building Management Statement –   Preparation of the Building Management Statement, to be converted to the Strata Management Statement, was prepared with intricate detail, incorporating a version of the Conservation Management Statement, identifying each of the historical artifacts, along with a repairs & maintenance brief.    Each of the artifacts were identified in the schedule of shared facilities which would allow an equitable distribution of repair and maintenance costs to be registered on each and every title.   This would ensure that every lot owner had access to all of the historical information registered on their respective land titles.

EasementsEach of the historical artifacts/structures were defined by an easement which burdened the lot on which the artifact was located and benefited Sydney City Council.  These easements allowed the detailed location to be established within the building and noted the terms of access to allow full compliance with Councils DA Approval.

RestrictionsA restriction on use was placed on each of the easements detailed above, outlining the fact that the artefact must be retained and maintained to the specific heritage items configuration within the easement and maintained in accordance with the Conservation Management Statement registered in the Strata Management Statement.

Positive CovenantsPositive Covenants were registered on each of the titles out lining an obligation to the owners of the need to maintain and repair all of the building heritage features contained within the easements and detailed in the Conservation Management Statement at their own cost.  The Positive Covenant outlined that where these items were not maintained to the standard required, Council could access, repair and charge owners accordingly.

While achieving considerable commercial outcomes to the local economy with a hospital, healthcare facilities, a supermarket, commercial offices and luxury residential accommodation, the revitalisation of the site has largely retained the original character and structure of the building, hence maintaining the charm of yesteryear to be revered by generations to come.

Before and After






LTS Lockley T: 1300 587 000
Suite 1, Level 1, 810 Pacific Highway F: 02 9499 7760
Gordon NSW 2072 ABN 95 317 022 857