The transformation of Balmain’s Telstra Exchange building has been praised by local residents as it nears completion following an extensive community campaign.
The Heritage Square will introduce public seating, urban landscaping and a green wall to the corner of Montague and Darling Street.
In 2015, Telstra announced they would demolish the building’s facade after undertaking talks with the Council.
The removal of the building’s facade glorifies the heritage clock tower that sits beside the suburb’s post office.
The site holds significance for people who have lived in the area for decades like Jenni Nixon, a Balmain resident who has a personal affiliation with the original Telstra exchange.
“My father worked in [the] 1950’s with them and when I first started as a telephone typist receptionist, I too used the plug-in phones,” she told the Inner West Independent, “it is a connection with the past and with the Telstra Exchange.”
Nixon appreciates the aesthetic transformation of the streetscape, admitting “the Telstra block was an eyesore.”
Kerin Welford, a past resident of Balmain who now resides in neighbouring Lilyfield, is pleased the final design maintains the area’s heritage.
“Balmain’s historic Post Office and Town Hall have now been respected by celebrating their presence through the new design of a public square,” she told the Independent.
“[This] will allow people to linger and admire our historic architecture which is fast becoming lost in Sydney’s current building boom.”
Welford describes the design as, “good town planning… [that will] enhance our community.”
Member for Balmain Jamie Parker and Inner West Councillor Rochelle Porteous fought for the project.
The Telstra owned frontage was given to the Inner West Council for no cost, with Council agreeing to pay for the site’s demolition and construction.
“It has taken a lot of negotiation with Telstra, a lot of commitment from 3 terms of council but finally the Balmain Heritage Public Square will be open and ready for use,” Porteous said to the Independent.
“It is a long time coming but it is important that spaces such as these are re-established and preserved for future generations.”
“Never underestimate the importance of establishing community spaces, particularly strategically and historically important spaces.”