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By Stephen Lightfoot, Save Bronte spokesperson on November 3, 2016 in News

A very determined bunch.

A very determined bunch.

Bronte locals may have noticed that the derelict Bronte RSL building has suddenly become a giant billboard. The site has been sold to a new developer and 21 ‘boutique luxury’ apartments, known as ‘Bronte Place’, are being advertised for sale.

Back in October 2012 over 300 concerned locals packed the dilapidated Bronte RSL to hear from Waverley Council about plans to redevelop the RSL site. The Bronte RSL Sub-Branch’s chosen developer, David Hynes of Winston Langley Burlington (WLB), was in attendance. In the stifling atmosphere of that hot summer evening, Hynes surely had no inkling of the four year battle ahead that would end with WLB abandoning its proposed supermarket and on-selling the site before it could turn the first sod of its sodding building.

WLB planned to redevelop the site with a building twice as large as allowed under the contemporary planning controls. It tried a number of ways to have this non-complying DA approved, culminating in an appeal to the Department of Planning for a spot re-zoning of the site.

Never opposed to a redevelopment, the Save Bronte group led the community’s efforts for an appropriate DA, and in the end the Department of Planning refused the developer’s re-zoning request. WLB was forced to scale back its plans, which, whilst still breaking the height limit, were approved by Council in December 2015.

Still not satisfied, WLB continued to investigate ways in which to increase the size of its redevelopment. It presented new plans for a bigger and taller development to Waverley Council, which were not supported by the council planners.

Perhaps feeling defeated, WLB put the site on the market. It was sold in late July to the RDA Property Group, which is directed by local developer and former fashion industry identity Danny Avidan. The sale price is confidential, but the Australian Financial Review estimated a figure somewhere north of $10 million. All will be revealed on December 21 when settlement takes place and WLB and the Bronte RSL Sub-Branch get their money.

New owner Mr. Avidan is promising to build “a modern oasis of beautiful residences” in accordance with the DA approved last year, and has told locals that we can now “relax”. Building may commence as soon as January.

One part of this story that gets misrepresented is the demise of the Bronte RSL Club, which closed in 2012 due to financial difficulties. In truth, the redevelopment was never about saving the club. The Bronte RSL Club was a separate legal entity to the Bronte RSL Sub-Branch, which owned the site and will receive a financial windfall from the sale. No matter which DA was approved, the club had no money with which to reopen in the new building. The club asked the sub-branch for financial assistance in order to reopen, but the sub-branch said it was unable to help. Having no other financial saviours, the club went into liquidation in mid-2015.

So, with apartments for sale and a new owner ready to build, is this the beginning of the end, or merely the end of the beginning of our community’s long campaign for an appropriate redevelopment of the Bronte RSL site? We don’t know for sure, but what we do know is that our community will be watching closely as the redevelopment proceeds, and we won’t relax until the last coat of paint is dry on ‘Bronte Place’.