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Presentation House open after makeover that took two years

THE multi-million dollar renovation of Lismore Diocese's Presentation House has been given the seal of approval from the nuns who formerly resided there.

After two years of renovations, Presentation House, behind St Carthage's Cathedral in Lismore, is almost finished and will be open for business as the new home of the Catholic Schools Office come next week.

Officially opening on November 21, the Catholic Schools Office, which had outgrown their former spaces, will be moving into the century-old building starting on Monday.

Built in 1905 as a convent for the Presentation Sisters, the House has been revamped in a major overhaul taking two years to complete, Lismore Diocese business manager Greg Isaac explained.

He said he was pleased to see the life brought back into the grand old building, which had stood empty for a number of years before the renovation began.

The electrics and the drainage has been one of the biggest parts of the renovation - along with making the building fire safe and up to all building standards.

Sister Margaret Mary remembers her time spent at the Presentation House in Lismore after recent refurbishments to upgrade and modernise the building were finalised on Thursday.
Sister Margaret Mary remembers her time spent at the Presentation House in Lismore after recent refurbishments to upgrade and modernise the building were finalised on Thursday. Marc Stapelberg

"When we were doing it we took the approach that we wanted to retain the heritage value, but the workspaces we wanted to be very contemporary," Mr Isaac explained.

And contemporary they are - The workspaces for the offices are light, open plan spaces, with walls of the nun's bedrooms having come down to facilitate the functionality of the offices.

However, much of the characteristics of the picturesque building, like the main and side old cedar staircases, have remained, simply polished and brightened up.

On Wednesday the team took some of the nuns that previously lived in the building for a tour and were met with a joyous response.

"They were amazed, just amazed at the building," Mr Isaac said.

"To see life come back to their mother house, they were really pleased."

Sister Margaret Mary, who spent her early years as a novice at the Presentation Building, and then other periods here between postings across the state, said the renovation was extraordinary.

"It's magnificent," she said.

"They've done a tremendous job."

Presentation House, Lismore.
Presentation House, Lismore. Marc Stapelberg

The building was deteriorating when the nuns moved out in 2004, she said, and she was glad to see that the building had been brought back to life now rather than forgotten or demolished.

A horde of local tradespeople have worked inside the building, Mr Isaac said.

"Our policy was to always use local tradespeople when possible," he said.

He also said the renovation had been made easier by the good communication they'd had from Lismore City Council.

"Lismore City Council have been absolutely fantastic," he said.

"I've worked with (many) councils, but Lismore are one of the best councils I've ever had to deal with."

There's still some work to be done, with tidying up and landscaping and other things, but it will all be done and perfected for the grand opening in November.

Topics:  lismore presentation sisters



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