BlueScope to reuse Port Kembla’s historic buildings as part of plan to lease 200 hectares of unused land

BlueScope’s historic CEO residence sits atop a hill in Port Kembla, surrounded by open land that ultimately overlooks suburban Wollongong.

With a circular driveway, billiard room, outdoor tennis court and full pool, Lindenfels overlooks the city and has all the luxuries for the bosses of one of Australia’s largest manufacturing companies.

And like several large structures on BlueScope land in the area, it’s barely used.

“This is an area that surrounds the heart of the Port Kembla steelworks,” said BlueScope’s managing director of Australian steel products, John Nowlan.

“There are about 200 hectares and there are quite a few large structures and old buildings that have been put up over the years,” he said.

A two-story building with two large palm trees on each side and stairs leading up to the building.
BlueScope’s commercial building has a tremendous amount of vacant office space.(ABC Illawarra: Justin Huntsdale)

The company has started an ambitious project to improve the use of some 200 hectares of unused land in Wollongong and Lindenfels is part of it.

“There are office buildings, some of which are in use, some of which are not.

“The old business building is a beautiful old building and so is the residence of the general manager.”

Why don’t you live in a luxury house?

Today, Lindenfels is part museum, part conference center.

The grass tennis court is recognizable only by the remains of a rusty fence and court lights.

Signs above the doors inside the house describe what each room was used for, while historic photos and paintings of past general managers and early steel fabricators adorn the walls.

Two empty rooms overlooking a large dining room with
Lindenfels was once a place only top executives could visit.(ABC Illawarra: Justin Huntsdale)

Former President George Edgar was the last BlueScope employee to live in the house in the early 2000s until he decided to move out.

He reportedly did not want to live above his workers.

“We wouldn’t have come here — the top managers could have been here, but this was the general manager’s residence,” said former BlueScope employee Roy Dixon.

“When you’re young, you think of top managers as very important people, and then as you go on and become one of those people, you realize they’re just ordinary people like you.”

Roy Dixon and John Nowlan stand inside the driveway of the Lindenfels house.
Former employee Roy Dixon (left) and Australian Steel Products CEO John Nowlan.(ABC Illawarra: Justin Huntsdale)

Old buildings are part of the history of steel

Mr. Dixon began working for the company in 1957 and retired in 1998 after a 22-year career.

Some of the empty buildings that BlueScope now wants to reuse were an important part of his life at the company.

“We started as apprentices and moved on to the engineering side,” he said.

“You saw some changes and we can remember the primitive methods from the beginning, when things were heavily driven by people and automation didn’t exist.

“Simple things like computers and control systems have been a big change since I started.”

Outside of Lindenfels
BlueScope is looking for business or community opportunities for Lindenfels.(ABC Illawarra: Justin Huntsdale)

Film studio a possibility

While Nowlan would like to lease the unused land to companies that complement BlueScope’s core business of iron and steel manufacturing, he’s not ruling out space for the big screen.

“Some of the land has buildings, but there’s a lot of empty open space, so it’s a pretty nice palette for someone with imagination and style,” he said.

“I wouldn’t want to rule out something like a movie studio because we have some beautiful old buildings, but residential is not what we have in mind because it’s next to heavy industry and the port.

A rusty fence surrounds an unused and dilapidated lawn tennis court.
An old tennis court at Lindenfels on BlueScope land in Port Kembla.(ABC Illawarra: Justin Huntsdale)

“We’re not trying to sell the land. We’re trying to crystallize or come up with a plan for how it can be used for business and community activities that fit with what we do.”

BlueScope has established an 18-month program to create a vision for the excess land, which includes employing an architect and urban design firm to develop a master plan.

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