Inner West Independent

‘Characterless, rampant’ development costing Alexandria’s iconic heritage

The Alexandria Hotel has become a 'defacto drinking pub' for Sydney Swans fans

By LYDIA WATSON-MOORE

Residents have united together in an attempt to save the Alexandria Hotel from its proposed demolition.

Local patrons of the hotel, concerned residents and politicians have begun an extensive media campaign against the DA lodged to City of Sydney Council, which seeks to replace the historic pub with apartments and commercial space.

Greens MP for Newtown Jenny Leong told City Hub she “has a soft spot” for the Alexandria Hotel, and said it is a valuable community hub.

“There are huge concerns in the community about the loss of significant cultural heritage and parts of our society that we value, and I’d say that the Alexandria Hotel, from the response that we’ve seen on social media, is one of those key iconic places in our local neighbourhood,” she said.

Spokesperson for the ‘Save the Alex’ campaign, Ben Noblet, said affected residents were not notified of the proposal by council.

“We weren’t actually formally notified by the council at all, which is unusual, because with other developments in the area we got a letter in the mail box,” he told City Hub.

Mr Noblet said the community’s awareness of the proposed demolition had come through word of mouth, via social media and notices in the hotel.

He said the Save the Alex campaign was “a bunch of people who wanted to immobilize their efforts together to try to stop the development happening”.

The DA, submitted by Baker Kavanagh Architecture, seeks demolition of the hotel building and construction of a four storey residential and commercial development.

A company owned by Centennial Property Group recently purchased the site from former owner, Raymond Masters.

A spokesperson for Centennial Property Group told City Hub that the proposal allocates “much needed residential accommodation” on a site which is “not heritage listed”.

“According to town planning experts, demolition of the building will not impact any local or state listed heritage buildings in the area,” the spokesperson said.

However, one of the contentious issues for residents is its non-heritage listing.

Mr Noblet said he believed the building was historically significant and should be considered as having heritage value.

“The building itself is close to 100 years old, and it’s very well preserved,” he said.

“We’ve been through the heritage impact statement that was provided by the developers, which is quite an interesting read.”

The heritage impact statement included in the application, supplied by Urbis, said that the while the building had some worth in its maintained architectural features, it was not unique, or significantly important to the community.
Ms Leong said that while Sydney’s housing crisis needed attention, the Henderson Street site was not the right location.

“We need to address the need for housing in the city, but the solution isn’t to get rid of all of the public amenity around the area,” she said.

Other residents agreed, with over 60 comments on development forum website Planning Alerts, discussing the ‘madness’ of replacing the iconic hotel with 28 apartments.

Resident Matthew Jorgenson, as named online, said that while more housing is needed, the Alexandria Hotel should not be demolished.

“I am normally pro-development. The area is growing and new homes for new residents need to be provided. But this growth should not come at the expense of our local icons,” he wrote.

Local resident and coordinator of the Save the Alexandria Hotel Facebook page Alex Robinson said he thought not only the physical building was significant, but also its function in the community.

“I love the building. There are so few pubs in Australia, and in Sydney that have retained that old school look and feel,” he said.

On Planning Alerts, residents claimed the pub was the “only bit of character” left on Henderson Street, and said Alexandria “risks becoming entirely charmless” if the development proceeds.

Both Mr Noblet and Mr Robinson told City Hub that the pub functions as a community meeting spot for families, local sporting teams, political groups and facilitates large sporting event coverage.

Ms Leong acknowledged the hotel’s community significance, and said having spaces like the Alexandria were something “we should be encouraging”.

“I think it really is one of those venues in the inner city that allows people to come together,” she said.

The social media campaign, through Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr, is encouraging people to write submissions to City of Sydney council against the demolition.

Mr Robinson said he was fighting to get as much awareness of the issue as possible before the July 14 deadline for council submissions.

“Ultimately, its just make a submission- it doesn’t need to be a 15 page letter, it just needs to be a couple of paragraphs,” he said.

A City of Sydney spokesperson told City Hub that they could not comment on DAs while being “exhibited and assessed”.

“We encourage the community to submit their views on the DA, which is on exhibition until July 14,” the spokesperson said.

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