Historic Kodak signage could be removed from 100-year-old building in Hobart’s Elizabeth St Mall

A landmark of Hobart’s Elizabeth Street Mall could be transformed if the city’s council approves a plan to turn the Kodak House building into apartments, but there is concern about the loss of the building’s existing signage.

Last week the Council’s City Planning Committee voted in favour of the application that would allow the removal of Kodak brand signs from the 100-year-old building — against the recommendation of council officers and an independent assessment by a heritage architect.

The application to go before the full council on Monday night is to transform the building, completed in 1920 and listed as a heritage place on the Hobart Interim Planning Scheme, into a shared retail and apartment space, with commercial tenants remaining on the ground floor and five apartments on the levels above.

The plans for the building, lodged by local developers Giameos Constructions and Developments, include the removal of the Kodak House masonry sign at the top of the building, to be replaced with replica comprised of steel letters to allow more light in.

Deputy Lord Mayor Helen Burnet says the replacement of the masonry “Kodak House” sign has caused the most concern.(ABC News: Loretta Lohberger)

Deputy Lord Mayor and planning committee chairwoman Helen Burnet said the removal of the masonry sign from the former photography lab and shop had caused the most concern.

She described the sign, added in 1929, as “iconic”.

She said the sign also helped set Hobart’s Kodak building apart from most other remaining Kodak buildings in Australia.

“In its entirety, I think this is one of two which are still significant and very much as they were in the 1920s,” Cr Burnet said.

A former Kodak shop in Hobart with its historic signage.
The Kodak sign in Hobart’s Elizabeth Street Mall.(ABC News: Kate Ainsworth.)

The masonry sign is not the only Kodak sign that would be removed from the building if the application is approved.

“New side openings” mean the painted Kodak signs and illuminated Kodak light boxes would also be removed.

Helen Burnet smiles at the camera.
Deputy Lord Mayor Helen Burnet says the Kodak House sign is “iconic”.(ABC News: Phoebe Hosier)

A number of conditions for the application’s approval will be heard by the council on Monday night, including a requirement that the painted Kodak signage “must be repainted to the east of the existing sign” and “must match the existing sign in font, dimensions and depth”.

The council will also require the frame of the masonry sign must remain intact to help preserve its historical value.

“Planning schemes aren’t black and white, there is that shade of grey where the majority of the committee has suggested that this will not be too detrimental in relation to the heritage aspects,” Cr Burnet said.

She said the building had been an integral part of the city’s recent history.

“It’s been with so many Tasmanians over so many years, and it tells a story in itself the way that it is, in relation to the development of our city.”

Empty buildings ‘become a danger’

Brendan Lennard, who spent 25 years as a cultural heritage officer with the Hobart City Council before retiring earlier this year, said it could be difficult to balance new developments with maintaining heritage.

Hobart rooftops, including the Kodak House building in April 1977
The Kodak House building (left) in April 1977.(Supplied: Margaret Bryant, Tasmanian Archives.)

“The worst thing that can happen to a building is to be left empty,” Mr Lennard said.

“If they’re left empty for too long, it becomes a danger, they’re not looked after. It’s a bit like if you’ve got a car that no one’s driven for years and years, it becomes very difficult to make it work again,” he said.

“So [I have] no problem with a building being given a new lease of life … but the hard thing about heritage, if you’re making changes to heritage buildings, is not to lose the inherent qualities that actually make a building important.

“It’s all about exploring solutions, working with the building, working with the heritage experts and coming up with solutions.”

Mr Lennard said the preservation of heritage places was part of Tasmania’s appeal.

“Tasmania, and Hobart particularly, has an advantage in that it has a rich heritage of buildings [and] places,” he said.

“It has a rich collection of streetscapes … and when people come to Tasmania, they come with a knowledge of the expectation that Hobart has to offer an authentic experience with a number of fine old buildings and streets.

“The beauty of our built places is part of the thing that attracts people to Tasmania — not only as visitors, but actually attracting people to live here as well.”

Close up of the "Kodak House" sign in Hobart, partially obscured
The masonry “Kodak House” sign was added in 1929.(ABC News: Loretta Lohberger)

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Ambitious proposal for Margaret River tourist hotspot known as ‘Kodak Corner’

A proposal to divert and develop a section of a popular tourist road in Margaret River has been described as “visionary and exciting” by Western Australia’s Minister for the Environment.

Caves Road runs for more than 100 kilometres between Busselton and Augusta, taking motorists through towering forests of Karri trees and the landmark vineyards which established the region on the international wine and tourism scene.

Proponents are lobbying for the most popular section of Caves Road at Boranup Forst, often referred to as Kodak Corner, to be closed off to traffic and replaced with walk trails and an interpretive museum, showcasing the indigenous and European history of the area.


Tourists are left to wonder through the expansive forest along makeshift trails, with many taking the opportunity to carve their names or initials on the trees.

Wadandi custodian Wayne Webb, part of the consortium behind the proposal, said the continued degradation of the forest highlighted the need to introduce “structure and management” to the forest.

“At the moment, it’s a bit of a free-for-all and as you can see, it’s in danger of being loved to death,” Mr Webb told the ABC during a visit to Boranup Forest.

“We hope to introduce a bit of structure and management which would return this place to what it is, a beautiful, living thing with an incredible amount of history.”

‘Strong significance’

Under the proposal, a 2-kilometre section of Caves Road would be re-routed inland, closer to the original path of Caves Road, which was developed in the early 1900s to showcase the many caves in the region.

Mr Webb said many of the caves were used as burial grounds with some caves still retaining skeletal remains of Wadandi ancestors.

“The area has strong significance for us and the project would help shed light on that as well as giving Indigenous youth something to be proud of and work on,” Mr Webb said.

“But there is as a positive shared history as well with the timber industry that was common here.”

WA’s Environment Minister Stephen Dawson said the proposal was “both visionary and exciting,” with potential to “create new ways for visitors to experience the nature and culture of the region.”

“The area has strong Aboriginal cultural connection to the local Wadandi people and a unique early settler history.”

A spokesperson for WA’s Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attraction said discussions were underway with local tourism authorities, but that the “concept requires further planning and analysis work to determine “potential benefits and constraints”.

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