Cottesloe deaf school wants to stay

WA Foundation for Deaf Children's Lynne Van Olden and Ric Gornick in the 1898-built laundry at the WA Institute for Deaf Education. Picture: Andrew Ritchie.
WA Foundation for Deaf Children's Lynne Van Olden and Ric Gornick in the 1898-built laundry at the WA Institute for Deaf Education. Picture: Andrew Ritchie.

THE WA Institute for Deaf Education wants to stay at the Curtin Avenue, Cottesloe site it has called home since 1898, following the State Government’s recent announcement to sell the land.

“It’s because the heritage of this building is important, to continue to be part of the deaf community, and it’s our role to keep that connection,” foundation chief executive Lynne Van Olden said.

Sagging verandas, peeling paint, crumbling walls and buckling timber indicate the building’s disrepair since its last restoration in 1986.

Currently, the foundation’s administration, meeting rooms and embryonic museum support the deaf until 25 and about 425 of their families across Perth using a 1949 agreement giving it perpetual use of the former hostel and school for 80 deaf children.

“For many older deaf people this was their first home,” Ms Van Olden said.

The Government is seeking expressions of interest for the 19,941sq m site zoned development, providing the heritage building is kept and the foundation stays or it goes to a purpose-built facility on-site or elsewhere.

“If the building was brought back to a current standard it would be ideal for us because we need to keep that link with the deaf community,” foundation chairman Ric Gornick said.

Any new 600sq m facility, with administration, a board room, audiology facilities and a lecture theatre, must be able to house more organisations in the future, while the museum can stay in the old building.

Cottesloe auctioneer Chris Shellabear said the site’s value was an unknown because it was for sale without a structure plan with rules about heights, density and the mix of any development, so it would be subject to changing Cottesloe’s planning scheme, dealing with Government planners and possibly the Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority.

A Government spokesman said expressions of interest could find ways to “appropriately accommodate” the foundation’s needs, but predetermining any development could limit proposals, and valuations would be available after any sale so as not to influence market interest by closure on August 31.