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HomeNewsOffice workers to move into North Head

Office workers to move into North Head

A few hundred locals will be using former military buildings at North Head as their office in 2023 as ‘WOTSO’ workspace ascends from the beachfront to the eastern hill.

WOTSO is the largest co-working space operator in Australia, with 1,000 offices spread over 20 locations nationally. They provide flexible working space offices and have been using the old children’s hospital owned by Royal Far West the last three years while the charity prepares for the site’s redevelopment.

They plan to move into the Barracks Precinct on North Head in February 2023 and take custody of two former military buildings – now in the process of renovation.

Manly Observer will be going along with them.

The new WOTSO space will occupy two buildings totalling about 1400 square metres.

The Barracks Precinct within North Head Sanctuary consists of a collection of Art Deco military buildings constructed in the 1930s, prior to the outbreak of World War II, where Australian Army defence personnel lived and operated the large guns at neighbouring North Fort.

WOTSO is renowned for taking over empty buildings in urban areas (some of them near-derelict and requiring significant upgrades) and converting them to a mixture of different community workspaces with flexible tenancy terms.

A WOTSO workspace.

As reported in Manly Observer in July, the Royal Far West site on South Steyne in Manly that WOTSO is presently occupying is scheduled to be knocked down and replaced with dual sets of residential premises. These buildings, five-storeys and eight-storeys high, will include 58 private apartments at the back and a mix of commercial and community space at the front.

A WOTSO spokesperson told Manly Observer, “We have been looking to relocate for a while, given that our tenancy with Royal Far West was always going to come to an end. Having been lucky enough to have had the beachfront location we have had for the past three years, it was important for us to find another equally special location for our members.”

The current WOTSO building on Manly’s Beach front will be demolished in 2023.

What will be on offer?

Open 24 hours a day, the new premises will feature 200 desks with internet access, shared kitchen and other facilities, including a coffee cart to make up for the lack of on-site cafés.

“Being located within a nature reserve, the area has a special feel which we think our members will love and appreciate greatly,” the spokesperson enthused. “The site is surrounded by bush land, with plenty of bush walking tracks to spend your lunch break exploring.

“There is also a tennis court, which will be available for members to use… We will become another fixture that brings and builds community. Our workspaces very organically create an atmosphere and we do not doubt WOTSO The Barracks will be any different.”

The new Wotso flexible working space site in the Barracks Precinct on North Head. Photo: Alec Smart

The Barracks Precinct, the former military encampment and defensive structures on a high ridge above the Quarantine Station, features a collection of NSW Heritage-listed structures.

A WOTSO spokesperson told Manly Observer how the heritage status influenced their renovation schemes: “The exterior of the buildings must be kept as is. We have picture rails inside, however we won’t be putting holes in the walls to hang pictures. We also need to be mindful of where we paint our signature WOTSO murals.

“Due to it being surrounded by native flora and fauna, The Barracks, unfortunately, will not be pet-friendly, unlike our other sites.”

WOTSO will occupy two free-standing buildings with approximately 1,400 sqm located within the North Head Sanctuary. The buildings are in close proximity to the former military parade ground where the Night at the Barracks concerts took place last Spring.

The move has the blessing of North Head caretakers Harbour Trust and Manly MP and Environment and Heritage Minister James Griffin.

“I am delighted that WOTSO will remain in Manly. Professional services working space in Manly is the only way we will create a more sustainable and dynamic local economy,” Mr Griffin said.

WOTSO joint CEO, Jessie Glew, said, “We are sad to be leaving the RFW [Royal Far West children’s charity] building, but are optimistic about the potential at The Barracks, and hopeful that we will have the opportunity to re-establish with a second Manly facility when the RFW development is completed.”

Want to know more? You can book a tour or make an enquiry on the WOTSO North Head website. 


Interior of the new Wotso building – some renovation will be necessary. Photo: Alec Smart

A bit of history

According to the Harbour Trust: “The strategic importance of North Head’s location has been recognised since the earliest days of colonisation. Existing coastal defences were upgraded as a result of unfolding events in Europe during the 1930s. In addition, North Fort was constructed with concrete gun emplacements, tunnels, and an underground plotting room.

“The associated Barracks were built to house and train the army gunners who worked at North Head – the largest barracks built in Australia prior to WWII. During WWII, the whole of North Head became a major defence base, making it one of the most heavily fortified sites in Australia. After WWII, the Australian Army’s School of Artillery was established here in 1946, and occupied the military buildings until relocating to Victoria in 1998.”