City News

The rise and fall of the Empire

The Kings Cross development calls for the demolition of the buildings from Blakes Pharmacy through to the Empire Hotel. Photo: John Webber


It’s amazing how one day a community is complacently going about its business and then the next all hell breaks loose, as it did when news of a major over-development along Darlinghurst Road was broken by the City Hub and later picked up by the dailies.

People are angry, mobilising and discussing how best to tackle the proposal. Even old enemies are uniting, to fight the biggest and ugliest development proposal in the Cross since the Victoria Street Green Bans of the mid-seventies.

The development calls for the demolition of the buildings from Blakes Pharmacy, near the El Alamein Fountain, through to the Empire Hotel.
The plan with no planning provides for 83 apartments and 101 car spaces with access from Barncleuth Lane, a narrow one way street that even with its current low volume vehicular traffic is problematic.

Construction is set to take three to four years, after which developer Iris Capital says the area will be ‘revitalized and heading into a renaissance’.
Iris Capital CEO Sam Arnaout, claims that the development is “well considered” and that Iris is “more than happy to talk and consult with the community.”
Play it again Sam, because not a peep out of you or your cohorts so far, and we question your consideration.

While still reviewing the proposal, local MP Alex Greenwich has seen enough when he said, “The question is whether this is the tipping point for the Cross, where venues that added to the diversity and vibrancy of our city are being replaced with large residential developments.”

Helen Crossing, convenor 2011 Residents’ Association said, “The proposed building is not in keeping with those currently existing in the area, or what we think Council ought to be considering as part of its vision for Kings Cross.”
Developer Sam Arnaout also claimed that he had been “working closely with Council over the past 12 months to come up with a plan that will integrate into the area very well.”
Firstly the plan will decimate the area, not integrate with it on any level, and secondly, his claim to have worked ‘closely with Council’ raised even more alarm bells.

When the City of Sydney was questioned about just how closely they were working with Arnaout, their spokesperson replied, “Prior to the lodgement of this application, the City was contacted by representatives of the applicant to comment on the project,” before adding, ”The City gave initial preliminary feedback and expressed interest in discussing the project, but requested further detailed information to better inform futures discussions.”

The City of Sydney spokesperson added these ‘future discussions’ have not occurred”, but if local Potts Point and Kings Cross Heritage and Residents‘ Society President, Andrew Woodhouse is correct in his assessment of the DA, then there is plenty to discuss.
Citing 40 development breaches overall, Woodhouse said, “My main objections are a loss of heritage, including the important remnants of the Bourbon; the height, which is nine stories compared to the restrictions of five; the loss of streetscape value; and the design itself, which I believe will have an adverse impact on local businesses and residents.”

And the new plans will strip the street of drinking and eating spaces as the plans calls for a reduction of licensed spaces from 5,000sqm to 1,395sqm.
Local resident, cultural historian and author, Warren Fahey, said, “Streetscapes do change, but Darlinghurst Road is more than just a road. Development is expected as long as it salutes heritage, is in proportion and gives something back to the community. The current DA gives nothing more but a slap in the face.”

And more than just Darlinghurst Road will be impacted, as the demolition and construction phases will have to be conducted via Ward Avenue, Barncleuth Square, Barncleuth Lane and Roslyn Street.
Roslyn Street resident of 29 years, Rhonda Reilly, said, “It will impact badly on everybody as all the business and apartments will be covered in dust and nobody wants to sit near a construction site.” She added, “Not happy, Jan.”

For years Barncleuth Lane has been much neglected and is choked with overflowing garbage bins, trucks and tradie vehicles.
Part of the problem is that it is a narrow laneway between the Darlinghurst Road clubs and apartments, and a block of apartments buildings on the other side.

The proposed development in any scale will also strip residents near Barncleuth Lane of their already minimal parking residential parking spaces.
In addition, any extra laneway traffic will affect the operations of the Kings Cross Police as they use the Roslyn Street entrance to the Kings Cross Police Station for prisoner drop-offs, and Barncleuth Lane as a rapid entry onto Roslyn and Ward.

Those living on the western side of Barncleuth Lane and Roslyn Street will be affected immediately works commence and will experience dust, noise, truck fumes and possible explosions, along with plenty of builders’ banter.
“People facing Barncleuth Lane will wake in fright every morning with the sound of jackhammers, cranes and cement trucks,” Woodhouse said.

Located at 20 Darlinghurst Road, Blakes Pharmacy has serviced the area for 35 years but is now marked for demolition.
Current proprietor, Jennifer Manning, had a single thought on the development when she said, “It will kill the area.”
Above Blakes is the Fountain Medical Practice, which offers the area services in women’s, men’s and children’s health, general practice, psychology and podiatry.
“We are the only doctors in the area that do home visits for a lot of the older people in the area,” a spokesperson said.

Owners of rental properties in the five-building apartment block behind Darlinghurst Road, and shops and apartments along Roslyn Street, will find themselves with un-rentable premises and occupiers will be driven out and into the hands of Iris Capital or some other developer, just as they intended.

The DA for Darlinghurst Road is an ambit claim, and will quickly be modified in height with a new jack-in-the-box design, in the hope of mollifying the community, but a development of any size will still lead to the destruction of heritage and the quality of life on a massive scale.

“Kings Cross is in transition and the time is right for Council to be looking at a masterplan, because what is happening at the moment does not take into account the considerable heritage values, and no thought has been given to the character of the area,” Councillor Christine Forster, City of Sydney, said.

There used to be one voice that spoke for the Cross, but in recent years has been missing from any debate about the area’s direction and future.
As Louis Nowra points out in his City Hub piece this week, the last time Clover Moore was active in the Cross was during her failed attempt to turn Fitzroy Gardens into a parking lot for the Australian white ibis.
“Clover is snubbing the community, and her lack of planning for Kings Cross is a two fingered salute to the community,” Woodhouse said.
Indeed, where are you Clover, or is it over between you and the Cross?

Objections can be lodged to City of Sydney until January 24th.

A public rally is planned for 2 pm, Saturday, February 24th at the El Alamein Fountain.
Speakers to be announced.

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