Maitland council approves demolition of former Fr Riley's Op-Shop in High Street

The derelict Fr Riley’s Op-Shop, destroyed by fire in November 2016, will be demolished despite an eleventh hour plea for the building to be retained.

Maitland City Council voted unanimously at a recent meeting to approve the demolition to make way for a site rebuild which would include retail space and serviced apartments.

Council received two submissions opposing the demolition predominately on heritage grounds. In his submission, Thornton resident John Rademaker said he supported the idea of sympathetic redevelopment behind the existing three structures located on the High Street site.

Mr Rademaker said the precinct is dominated by Georgian and Victorian buildings and it is imperative “this architectural period streetscape is preserved.” “So many unique structures have been demolished over the years,” Mr Rademaker said. “The Angel Inn, Cohen’s Store, Brown’s Monumental Stoneworks and Capper’s Emproium.”

Council officers said the site falls within the Central Maitland Heritage Conservation Area, and while the building is not listed as a heritage item, it is in the vicinity of a number other significant heritage listed buildings. 

A condition of the approval is that the demolition process is monitored by an appropriately qualified historical archaeologist and any material evidence exposed in the course of the demolition archivally recorded. 

The building’s owner Mr Norman Burton told council officers that an internal bracing system would have to be installed for any restoration works. Mr Burton said Initial budget estimates for this alone were valued between $300,000 and $400,000. Even with the bracing there was no guarantee the building could be retained. 

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