257 Clarence Street
257 Clarence Street
Under the leadership of the President, Phillip de Boos-Smith, the board envisaged acquiring a space which would provide stability and be seen as a heritage property going forward. After studying 20 projects, the board chose a small, three-floor building in Clarence Street which was formerly used by radio station 2SM.
In July 1978, the Alliance moved into 257 Clarence Street. The BNP granted the Alliance a 20-year loan with a mortgage on the property as a guarantee.
In 1999, Joel Hakim rejoined the board and dreamt of providing the organisation with modern premises. With this in mind, he relaunched the idea of redeveloping the site. But it was necessary to obtain expertise in real estate.
Phillip de Boos-Smith joins the board as the father of the first building project.
In August 2001, he rejoined the board to assist with the project. The transformation of the Alliance into a financially stable company took place with an improvement in productivity and a reduction in expenditure.
Bruce Bland joins the board. He had a solid background in construction and project management and his presence enabled the project to proceed.
His first contribution was to convince Harry Seidler to participate in the project, a famous Australian architect, known for his design of the Australian Embassy in Paris.
Harry Seidler produced a plan which showed that the appearance of Clarence Street could be enhanced with a building of 12-13 storeys, approved by the City of Sydney.
Construction took place under the supervision of Bruce Bland who worked in collaboration with Seidler.
As Harry Seidler died in March 2008, he did not live to see the building completed. Peter Hirst who was an architect at Seidlers, was in charge of the work site and Hiromi Shiraishi, a Japanese architect, was responsible for the decoration of the café and the choice of other items.
On November 5, 2009, the building was inaugurated by the Governor of New South Wales, Marie Bashir and the Ambassador of France Michel Filhol.
In less than 8 years, the loan had practically been reimbursed, thanks to rigorous management by successive teams lead by my successors, David Kent and Lyn Tuit.
It had been a beautiful adventure. Perhaps we would have renounced the project had we known what lay ahead given the time constraints and hurdles we had to devote to the project.
Given the positive outcome, we can be grateful that we did not know this at the time.
Many Alliances around the world have contacted us since to seek our advice as they too would like to embark on a similar project.
Our response has always been: We were able to do this because we owned a valuable asset in the 1970’s.
Without this, it would not have been possible for us to go ahead.
President of the board of directors, l’Alliance Française de Sydney (2001-2013)