Standing in front of the Wesleyan chapel’s exterior atop three levels of scaffolding, Jay was struck by the significance of Wesley Edward Eagar Centre’s (WEEC) heritage.
“I was privileged to view Wesley Edward Eagar Centre from a different perspective today, getting up close and personal with some of the original architecture,” he says, as major upgrades continue in Surry Hills.
“What moved me was, ‘Hey, this is something great!’ Everyone knows the site, but they don’t know it from this angle and perspective.”
As Wesley Mission’s Property Development Manager, Jay is one of many people involved in the $11.7 million upgrade to the iconic heritage-listed, crisis accommodation site. The program of works, which is anticipated to take 10 months, will improve privacy, security and care available to Sydney’s most vulnerable adults experiencing homelessness.
Speaking of the project now, Jay reflects on a development journey that carries the weight of almost 200 years of history.
“Heritage is not something you can recreate in authenticity, because it’s about that history; it’s about something that has that weathered look, that architectural sensibility from days gone by. You feel all the voices and people who have come before and experienced life within WEEC. It’s got something that can’t be artificially recreated.”
It’s no surprise you can see this in the original sandstone façade, which has borne its history since 1847 when the neoclassical, Greek Revival styled chapel was built on Bourke Street.
Like Wesley Mission itself, WEEC has its roots as both a congregation and community service. Over the years the building has evolved from the Wesleyan Chapel of the 1800s to the multi-storey service we know today, providing meals and accommodation for men and women seven days a week.
“Working with heritage constraints is a challenge from a property point of view, and every day we deal with technical, design and construction issues that must be monitored and managed,” says Jay.
“However, if we consider this project from a different perspective, in many ways we have been blessed.
“The level of involvement from so many departments within Wesley Mission for me epitomises joined-up thinking and cross-unit collaboration.
Our construction partner, Lipman, recently donated 27 ovens valued at over $25,000, which we rolled out to our network of foster carers. And that day when [our CEO] Rev Keith V Garner AM was visiting, the descendant of Lancelot Iredale, the bequestor of the site and a major driving force in the development of the original chapel, randomly stopped out front and started talking to us… She said the work we were doing was befitting of her ancestor’s purpose for the site.”
Jay smiles. “There’s something magical about it, for a lack of a better word. It’s just one of those things you can’t predict.”
Now the sandstone colonnade entrance will frame a reimagined building as it adapts to an evolving urban landscape. It’s here where we hope to celebrate the site’s heritage while improving the amenity, comfort and dignity found within its walls.
“A different perspective can turn difficulty into inspiration and faith,” says Jay.
To learn more about the upgrade to Wesley Edward Eagar Centre or to contribute to the project, visit dev-www.wesleymission.org.au/wesley-edward-eagar-centre-redevelopment