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Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Locals applaud as Oswals' Taj on Swan dream crumbles into dust

Kate Emery - The West Australian on October 4, 2016, 12:40 am By the time the first dome came down on the half-built mansion known as Taj on Swan most among the clapping crowd had been waiting for more than an hour. Flemington Get Adobe Flash player Video Down comes the Taj Others had been waiting as much as six years to see the toppling of a building that was arguably the high-water mark of Pankaj and Radhika Oswal’s ambition. About 100 onlookers — some media, some sticky-beaks — gathered yesterday for day one of a possible three-week demolition project. Many clutched phones to capture the earthmovers’ first thunderous crunch into what was to have been a $70 million Indian-style mansion overlooking the river. Others carried coffees or cans of soft drink, adding to the surreal feeling that it was just a fun day out in Peppermint Grove. Drone footage of the house being demolished. Pictures: Carl Nelson. As the machines rolled in shortly after 10am, passing cars slowed so passengers could hang out the window to snap a photo. House painters at work on the balcony of a nearby house took advantage of their view to briefly down tools. The plume of dust that went up as the first dome came down nearly obscured the hulking building from view. “That was pretty good,” conceded one watching teenager to his friends.\ Video Demolition crews move in on ‘Taj on the Swan’ Hamilton Hill resident Jan Onley turned up with a folding chair and a sense of adventure. “I thought, oh, this is going to take a while and I had this (the chair) in the car,” she said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing. You’ll never see it again.” The domes comes crashing down. Pictures: Mogens Johansen Brie Malmgren made the trip from neighbouring Mosman Park to satisfy her son’s curiosity. “Ever since our son heard it was coming down he’s been wanting to come and see it,” she said. Controversial because of its size and design when it was conceived in 2007, the Oswals’ family home was to have sprawled across eight lots on a 6600sqm super block bought for $23 million. When completed it would have had seven domes, six bedrooms, 11 bathrooms and space for Mr Oswal’s luxury car collection. Ms Oswal liked to call it “little India” but the Taj on Swan moniker proved more resilient. Work on the home stalled in late 2010 with the collapse of Mr Oswal’s ammonia empire. The family moved overseas and subsequent protracted legal battles left the site in limbo. Despite fences and warning signs, the abandoned building site became a magnet for illegal parties, squatters and graffiti. It was a thorn in the side of the Shire of Peppermint Grove, which regularly fielded complaints from residents and claimed it was owed tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid rates. A sign on the roof of the building. Picture: Seven News Peppermint Grove shire president Rachel Thomas was among those watching the diggers roll in. “I feel relief that it’s actually started,” she said. “I won’t be popping any corks until the thing’s actually down.” She said the Shire had reached an agreement with the Oswals in the past week to recover just over $100,000 in rates and penalties. It also hopes to recover the cost of the $88,000 demolition. Capital Recycling managing director Ray Gullotto said most of the rubble would be recycled. He estimated it could take three weeks for the site to be cleared. Pankaj and Radhika Oswal. “It’s a massive operation. It has a lot of controversy around it,” he said. “I think the locals are very glad to see this day come. It had a lot of potential, probably not my style but each to their own.” Just what will happen to the site, which is still owned by the Oswals, has yet to be decided. The Oswals last month settled long-running and high-profile legal feuds with the ANZ bank and the Australian Taxation Office, clearing the way for the site to be sold. It could be sold as one super block, with speculation the price could be close to what the couple paid for it. Alternatively, it could be divided and the blocks sold separately

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