Behind the scenes at historic community hub

Woolloomooloo residents gathered over the weekend to witness firsthand the City of Sydney’s final renovation changes to its much-loved community centre.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore joined residents on Saturday for a tour of construction at the Juanita Nielsen Community Centre, which will include a revamped gymnasium, community halls, and refurbished facilities that will further meet community demand.

Locals enjoyed a sneak peak of the updated facilities and asked questions of the project managers, community facilities staff, architect and builder at the City’s community inspection day.

The multipurpose recreation centre has been a popular meeting place for locals since it opened in 1984.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the centre was named after prominent Sydney activist Juanita Nielsen, who disappeared almost 40 years ago while campaigning to protect the area’s heritage.

“It’s thanks to Juanita Nielsen’s outspoken editorials and brave campaigning that heritage-listed buildings such as the community centre are still here for everyone to enjoy,” the Lord Mayor said.

“The Juanita Nielsen Community Centre is home to a youth centre, a fully-equipped gym and a community hall.

“Along with a kids’ play area, these updated facilities will allow us to upgrade the out of school hours care service,expand our recreational and community programs for all ages and provide more spaces for community hire.”

Construction started in December 2014 and will finish in late 2016. When complete, the centre will be more welcoming for the whole community with:

A new elevator and accessible facilities;
An updated gym and facilities, including new change rooms and air conditioning;
A new outdoor play area and new space for children’s programs; and
New rooms for community hire and classes.
As part of the works, Maclean Street will be closed off to pedestrians and vehicle traffic to improve the after-school and vacation care service for 5–12 year olds.

Juanita Nielsen was a local newspaper publisher who helped galvanise the community in the fight against the demolition and redevelopment of Victoria Street and Woolloomooloo.

She supported the ‘Green Bans’ strikes by trade unions and organised labour groups in the 1970s to protect local heritage and conserve the environment.

Green Bans were placed on several areas in Sydney, including the entire suburb of Woolloomooloo and Victoria Street, Potts Point, where Juanita Nielsen lived.

Ms Nielsen disappeared on 4 July 1975. It is generally believed she was kidnapped and murdered because of her anti-development and anti-corruption stance.

The City listed Ms Nielsen’s house at 202 Victoria Street, Potts Point, in the City of Sydney Local Environmental Plan 2012 to give it heritage protection. The NSW Government also included the property on the State Heritage Register.