A new synagogue hall for Brisbane within a seven-storey development

August 31, 2020 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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One of the most significant steps in the 134-year history of Brisbane’s Margaret Street Synagogue was taken recently when the Management Committee of the Congregation approved the Transaction Documents between the Brisbane Hebrew Congregation and the developer of a new commercial tower proposed behind the synagogue.

Aaron Goldman (BHC President), David Paratz (BHC Vice-President), Michael Arenson (BHC Past President) and David Colenso (Solicitor for the BHC– Johnson, Winter and Slattery)

The tower, fronting onto Mary Street, will provide a redevelopment of the current Synagogue Hall.

The documents were signed the following day on behalf of the BHC.

The finalisation and signing of the Transaction Documents was the culmination of a four-year period of discussions with numerous interested parties, including intense and detailed negotiations with the developer over the past 12 months.

Those discussions and negotiations were conducted by the Vice-President David Paratz who has headed the project and involved the former President Michael Arenson and the current President Aaron Goldman.

The BHC was advised by an independent Solicitor in the drafting of the extensive documentation as part of the agreement.

An architectural drawing of the existing Synagogue façade overlaid on the new building, as viewed from Margaret Street

The entire process, including obtaining Development Approval to demolish the existing Hall and expert advice on duty and tax implications, has been achieved with no cost to the BHC.

The final agreement provides for the demolition of the existing 65-year-old three-storey hall building, and for the BHC to be provided at no cost with a brand-new seven-storey building behind the Synagogue, comprising:-

a basement carpark for 7 cars;

a ground floor amenities level, with a children’s play area and a tea room;

a conference and cheder level;

a hall level with kitchen and toilets;

six residential units over the next two floors;

and a roof-garden with a succah

All levels will be linked by stairs and a lift, with air-conditioning to all upper levels.

Additionally, the BHC will have the use of 15 car spots in the adjoining building carpark outside business hours at no cost.

The developer is a Melbourne family group of Greek background, who have previously successfully completed large commercial projects in Brisbane.

Under the agreement, the developer will provide the new building which will be ‘a building within a building’, with its own title in exchange for the BHC allowing a section of the tower building to be built in the airspace overhanging the new Hall building, and the granting of an easement beside the Synagogue to create a public pedestrian laneway from Margaret Street to Mary Street.

No part of the new hall building or the tower building will overhang or affect the 134-year-old heritage-listed Margaret Street Synagogue, which will have its own separate title.

The BHC building forms part of the podium of the tower building, but has no connection with it other than through the carpark and the use of a common wall. The BHC building will be handed over when the podium levels are completed, and the tower construction will continue after that.

It is expected to be many years before the Congregation will be able to enjoy the new building due to the time needed for getting approvals for, and constructing, a project the size of the integrated development.

It is possible that the new Hall building will be completed in 4 to 5 years. The timing is subject to commercial decisions by the developer, and the agreements provide for longer periods subject to ‘milestone dates’ and ‘sunset dates’.

The agreements have been drawn to protect the interests of the BHC, and to minimise the commercial risks to it, as much as possible.

The congregation will continue to use the existing hall building until construction commences.

The developer will now proceed to pursue the necessary steps for such a development.

There are still many approvals and commercial steps to be overcome before the new building becomes a reality, and there is a commercial risk that the integrated development will not proceed at some point in the future, but the BHC is now set upon a positive and exciting pathway which, all going well, will proceed to fruition, and provide the congregation with modern facilities and a substantial asset.

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