Guido Eberding believes people will eventually come to appreciate the aesthetics and the environmental friendliness of his design for the retail and shop top housing at 84-90 Hyde St.
"Imagine when they built the Hammond & Wheatley early last century with all the timber buildings around. It would have stood out dramatically," the Bellingen-based architectural designer said. "It would have looked so different."
He noted that the brickwork for the new building - light grey with shades of sandstone, plus dark grey to break up the length of the facade - echoed but did not mimic the colour of the courthouse and the police station further down the street.
"We've tried to make it blend in but you can't just copy other buildings," he said. "It wouldn't be right. Every generation in architecture has its own style."
Avi Shaul, whose company Shaul Rubenstein Pty Ltd owns the old Carl Foster's site, said the building would be an exemplar of sustainable modern living, with its electric car charging stations, extensive array of solar panels, green space above the retail floor and its adherence to the new code for accessible design.
Guido said he was disappointed that these aspects had received little attention in the public debate and that in Europe this kind of design would be lauded and attract tax incentives.
"It's a high quality building. It's not like this project is designed to maximise profit," he said.
Also, he added, as medium-density infill development in a town constrained by forests and flood-prone land, it will efficiently accommodate 15 groups of people on 2000 square metres, compared to taking 150,000 square metres if they were living on one hectare lots on the fringes.
"As a town, Bellingen has very little room to grow," Guido said. "That pushes prices high. The supply is simply not there because of the geographics."
Avi pointed out that having more people living in the centre of town would liven it up and ensure Bellingen continued to thrive.
He contrasted this with the situation in Armidale, where developers were allowed to build shopping complexes on the eastern and western fringes of the town, which meant people no longer congregated in the central pedestrian area.
"They killed the main street," Avi said. "Now more than 50 per cent of the shops there are empty."
The physical work of clearing the site at 84-90 Hyde St and creating the new building will not get underway until early next year, Avi said.
A great deal of preparation needs to be done behind the scenes, involving seven to nine consultants, including civil and structural engineers, to finalise the details for the construction certificate.
"The DA shows what we are going to do and now we will work on how to do it," Guido said. "And the how to do is full of technical challenges. The final drawings still need to be approved - they have to check everything complies with the conditions."
Asked if the retail area would consist of multiple shops or one large space, like a supermarket, Avi said that is yet to be determined.
"We have a few ideas but we haven't really decided," he said.
The existing tenants - the cafe and the car repairers - will stay for now but are both considering their options.
Guido said when the work begins, it's likely the demolition and extraction of the petrol pumps and tanks will take a couple of months. The whole project is likely to take up to two years to finish.