Georgian villa delays student housing development


The discovery of historic architectural remains has halted construction on a student housing project, writes Ada Lee.

The remains of an 1859 Georgian villa have been discovered inside St Michael’s College, bringing student housing construction plans to a halt.

Owned by the Roman Catholic Church, St Michael’s College is an 80 year-old abandoned building on City Rd, with broken windows and graffiti on the greying walls.

Plans were underway by private contractor, Urbanest, to transform the decaying site into an 11-story accommodation building with 80 percent of beds promised to students.

Heritage architect, Otto Cserhalmi, discovered an 1859 Georgian-style villa known as Cyprus Hall encased within the college. His discoveries included an Archimedean spiral balustrade, a Georgian revival fireplace and mantelpiece, and a French door.

”Within 20 minutes we realised we had a building within a building,” Cserhalmi told the Sydney Morning Herald. ”[The Georgian building] would be considered of heritage significance.”

Project managers indicated that construction plans will be pushed back by almost a year with completion date predicted to be May 2015 instead of July this year.

Lack of affordable student housing has been an ongoing concern for students and the University of Sydney. Under its Student Accommodation Strategy, the University is aiming to deliver 4,000 affordable beds to students within the next three to five years. Difficulties with St Michael’s College construction apparently should not affect this target. A University spokesperson told Honi the college is a “separate project”.

Projects that are incorporated in the University’s strategy for affordable student housing include the Queen Mary Building and Abercrombie Precinct.

Published in Honi Soit, p. 6, 3 June 2014.

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