One of Mackay’s most historic buildings – once at the centre of ground-breaking sugar research – is now destined to become a school.
The 64-year-old Sugar Research Institute building on Nebo Rd has been bought and earmarked by the Catholic Education Diocese of Rockhampton to become a new college.
Current tenants were sent letters from the diocese in August telling them they had until October 31 to vacate as the diocese planned to start “preliminary site works associated with the Sugar Research site in November”.
Yesterday, tradesmen were at the old institute building to help the tenants move out.
The Catholic Education Diocese of Rockhampton, which has operated in Mackay since the late 1800s, bought the landmark in March 2016 for $5.75million.
Despite tenants like Mackay Alzheimers being told to move out, the diocese yesterday told the Daily Mercury that a timeline for construction of a new college had not yet been determined.
Catholic Education director Leesa Jeffcoat said she was delighted with the plans being made which would secure the site for the educational benefit of young people in the region.
Miss Jeffcoat said any future development of an educational facility on the Nebo Rd site would take into account its history.
Construction on the site will have its hurdles. The building, designed by architect Karl Langer, is of state heritage significance.
The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection lists the building’s royal palms, which line the roadside boundary, landscaping on Nebo Rd, lawns, the driveway and facade as aesthetically significant parts of the property.
“There will definitely be consultation regarding the future development of the site,” Miss Jeffcoat said.
Catholic Education’s plan for the historic building is yet another in a list of mooted re-births since SRI vacated the premises in 2006.
The site, which includes a huge block behind the building, has been the subject of six previous development applications.
These were for a health care centre, shops and units and subdivision of the land.
Peter Wright worked at the institute from the end of 1959 to 1992 when he retired to do consultancy work.
He said the building could be adapted into quite a good school area.
“Better that than what it has been since (the research centre moved to Brisbane),” he said.
The building had a wonderful conference hall, he said, and the heritage listed laboratory was very special.
The Sugar Research Institute was formed in 1949 to progress research into the milling and processing aspects of the sugar industry.
The building was opened in August 1953 and additions were made in 1966 and 1973.
In 2006 the research work undertaken by the Sugar Research Institute was transferred to Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane.
Architect Karl Langer is an enormous figure in the history of Queensland architecture and art.
The Austrian-born architect escaped the Second World War to Australia with his wife Gertrude in 1939.
They quickly became popular academics in artistic circles, Gertrude writing reviews in the Courier Mail and Karl designing buildings throughout Queensland.
Mr Langer was a friend of former Mackay Mayor and Queensland Senator Ian Wood. He presented an ambitious town plan for Mackay in 1945 but it was never adopted.
Catholic Education is yet to submit a development application to Mackay Regional Council to transform the building into a college.
1949 – Sugar Research Institute is formed
1953 – The building on Nebo Road was opened
1966 – Harold Vivian Marsh Brown’s design additions were added
2006 – Research work transferred to Brisbane
2016 – Catholic Diocese of Rockhampton buys it for $5.75M