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New owners of Drummoyne Reservoir plan to convert site into a round childcare centre

December 4, 2018

Drummoyne Reservoir is set to be turned into an innovative childcare centre. Photo: Supplied

After sitting disused for more than half a century, Sydney’s Drummoyne Reservoir is now set to be turned into a circular childcare centre.

Shan Kuo and husband Mike Wu, which own Queensland-based childcare chain Avenues Early Learning Centre, have emerged as the new owners of the state heritage-listed site.

Located at the the corner of Reservoir Lane and Rawson Avenue, the property was bought for $3.75 million in mid-July from Sydney Water.

The couple run a network of 15 childcare centres in Brisbane and are looking to open more in Sydney and Melbourne.

While the property occupies a substantial 1802 square metres of land, the structure, which cannot be removed due to its state heritage listing, takes up more than half the site. This leaves little space for development, unless it incorporates the reservoir in its use.

The 1802-square-metre site contains heritage-listed structures which cannot be removed. Photo: SuppliedThe 1802-square-metre site contains heritage-listed structures which cannot be removed. Photo: Supplied

Ms Kuo told Commercial Real Estate that she intends to do just that with her childcare centre.

“I would like to in particular include the roundness of it to go with the structure that can’t be demolished,” she said.

She believes circular structures are “unique” and is a fan of Tokyo-based architect Takaharu Tezuka’s award-winning Fuji Kindergarten, which is known for its oval-shaped “doughnut” roof deck.

“Something that inspired us a lot is the bungee jumping building (Sky Tower) in New Zealand, it’s all around a ramp going up gradually, I think something like that has really inspired us and also Tezuka’s ‘doughnut childcare’ where children go round and round,” Ms Kuo said, noting that she has engaged specialist architects to design the creative learning spaces for the Drummoyne site.

“If you look at his TED Talk, children just have this natural instinct to keep running round and round and you can’t lose them if they’re running around in a circle, they keep coming back anyway. It’s kind of that conversation that we’ve had with educational experts about round structures and its benefits for an educational facility.”

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Ms Kuo added that the reservoir’s heritage was also a reason behind the purchase.

She could not reveal the potential capacity of the childcare centre as designs are yet to be finalised, and expects to formally submit plans for the Drummoyne site “in a year’s time”.

The developer admitted that strong competition in the childcare sector is one of the reasons why they are trying to differentiate from the rest of the market.

“It’s definitely becoming more and more competitive and some areas are quite saturated and I guess that’s the more reason why we need to be more innovative in what we do,” Ms Kuo said.

The company is making its first foray outside of Queensland, with developments in the pipeline for Sydney and Melbourne. Centres in the two cities would be trading under Little Lane Early Learning.

The Drummoyne Reservoir (pictured in 1915) has not been used in more than half a century. Photo: Sydney Water/Water NSWThe Drummoyne Reservoir (pictured in 1915) has not been used in more than half a century. Photo: Sydney Water/Water NSW

“Currently we’re doing a few projects in Manly that we’re building at the moment and we’re putting through another application in Wollstonecraft that’s in planning at the moment and we have a site that’s going to be very, very unique in South Melbourne that’s designed by Tezuka Architects,” Ms Kuo said.

The Drummoyne Reservoir was at the centre of community controversy in May this year, with the City of Canada Bay and local residents fearing that listing the property on the open market could lead to a developer potentially knocking down the structure and replacing it with apartments.

It was revealed by Commercial Real Estate that Sydney Water had offered the site to the City of Canada Bay below market value, but the council, which wanted to take control of the site, did not respond to the offer.

Built in 1913, Drummoyne Reservoir stopped supplying water more than 50 years ago and was disconnected from the system in 1994.

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