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HomeNewsSea Life centre faces demolition as upgrade works start on Manly Cove...

Sea Life centre faces demolition as upgrade works start on Manly Cove West

Preliminary work has begun on the Manly Cove West upgrade. This will eventually result in the complete removal of the old Sea Life centre, an upgrade to Wharf 3 (also known as East Pier, the small timber jetty that stands separate from the main two ferry wharves), and improvements to the western end of the foreshore.

On 29 November, Manly MP James Griffin released a media statement explaining “early works will comprise site investigations in the water, around the existing boardwalk and within the former Sea Life building itself. For a few days, the work will include concrete core drilling.”

Investigations began on 30 November and will continue weekdays until Thursday 29 February, with the concrete core drilling carried out between 4 – 8 December.

In August 2023, Transport for NSW (TfNSW), the NSW Government department in charge of both the Sea Life building and Manly Wharves, issued a statement: “As part of our planning we need to carry out site investigations waterside and landside of the existing wharf. These investigations will include: * drilling of four geotechnical boreholes to assess seabed conditions * non-intrusive dive surveys of the area around the wharf * land surveying and investigation of existing wharf utility services * drone photography over the site.”

The investigative work took place over four weeks from Monday 7 August until Friday 15 September.

Graffiti covers the boarded-up former Sea Life Sanctuary, Manly. Photo: Alec Smart

Griffin, a former NSW Environment Minister added, “Sea level and coastal studies will also be undertaken to understand the impacts on the Manly West Esplanade beach following the planned demolition of the former Sea Life building.”

See ya later, Sea Life centre

Manly Sea Life Sanctuary originally opened as a dedicated aquarium in 1965 as ‘Marineland’ then underwent two major refurbishments in 1989 and 1992, reopening successively as ‘Underwater World’ and ‘Ocean World’.

After several changes of ownership, in June 2012 the aquarium relaunched as ‘Manly Sea Life Sanctuary’, which by now comprised three main attractions (Shark Harbour, Penguin Cove and Underwater Sydney). However, it finally closed on 28 January 2018 due to projected maintenance costs.

TfNSW declare: “Since the Sea Life aquarium building was closed in 2018, it has remained vacant and is not fit for reuse. The aquarium building is dilapidated, and it still houses custom built tanks and enclosures not easily adapted to a future new use. The building also blocks sight lines to the heritage buildings behind.”

Artistic impressions of the revamped West Esplanade and Wharf 3, Manly Cove. Photo: Alec Smart

TfNSW explained in their project information, “We would like to enhance the Manly West Esplanade precinct area and reconnect the Pavilion and heritage buildings with the beach by removing the aquarium building and extending the boardwalk with enough width for outdoor dining and a recreational edge.”

Mr Griffin elaborated, “The work will create a place which respects the local cultural heritage and reconnects the Manly Pavilion and heritage buildings with the beach by removing the former Sea Life building.

“I have long advocated for this project. I am excited about the investigative work beginning and look forward to the ultimate redevelopment of Manly Cove West.”

Wharf upgrades

In January 2022, Manly Observer reported on the proposed multi-million dollar facelift to the Manly West Esplanade revival project.

TfNSW were then in the process of seeking public feedback on the plans, which include a widening of the West Esplanade boardwalk by Manly Pavilion and a complete renovation of Wharf 3, with significantly improved disabled access.

Wharf 3, aka East Pier, Manly Cove, 2023. Photo: Alec Smart

At present, passengers with limited mobility cannot use Wharf 3 without assistance. City ferry services are often transferred to Wharf 3 when the east and west platforms of Wharf 1 are undergoing routine maintenance.

The freehold lease of Manly Wharf (pontoons 1 and 2) has recently transferred ownership from TMG Developments to Howard Smith Wharves (HSW), which are also expected to undertake some major upgrade works to the shops and dining area soon (as Manly Observer reported in July 2023).

HSW also purchased the Manly Wharf Hotel, aka The Wharf Bar, adjacent to East Pier, for a reported extra $30 million.

Further information is available on the Project Infoline, 1800 770 973 or by emailing: manlycove@transport.nsw.gov.au

West Esplanade, Manly Cove, December 2023. Photo: Alec Smart


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Manly Observer is an experiment in providing non-sensationalist hyperlocal news on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. We cover the big news across the LGA, but with a hyper focus on the Manly electorate encompassing Balgowlah, Seaforth, Freshwater, Brookvale and Curl Curl up to Dee Why. It is run by those living in the community for the benefit of an informed community. We care about an informed and connected community. That’s it. Simple. Thank you for your support in keeping quality local news alive!

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