City Hub

Sam plays it again

A problematic new development plan for 18-32A Darlinghurst Road – including The Bourbon and the Empire Hotel - has emerged under the cover of COVID-19. Photo: John Moyle

Opinion by JOHN MOYLE

A new development plan for 18-32A Darlinghurst Road – including The Bourbon and the Empire Hotel – has emerged under the cover of COVID-19.

Titled “Darlinghurst Road Potts Point,” the proposal is the work of award winning architectural firm Tonkinzulaikhagreeer Architects (TZG) for their client Piccadilly Hotel Operation Trust Pty Ltd, a part of property developer and hotel owner Iris Capital.

As one would expect from such an eminent architectural practitioner, the proposal is packed with the flowery language or “architectural speak” at its most obscure.

Claiming to be for an architectural competition, which it does not name, the project description says that it is “providing vibrant and pleasant residential and commercial accommodation that meets contemporary controls and standards.”

After citing the usual clichés of the area’s “colourful history” and making a “proclamation for the Cross’s optimistic and urbane future,” the description then speaks of the historic and contemporary buildings sitting “side by side.”

Of course, the proposal is illustrated with an optimistic rendering of the project designed to win over the hearts and minds of the most stalwart of critics as it shows the inclusion of the Bourbon’s facade from when the building was a wealthy gentlemen’s residence and later the Charlemont Private Hospital.

“The retention of the current Bourbon is limited to token façadism,” Andrew Woodhouse, President, Potts Point and Kings Cross Heritage and Residents’ Society said.

All of this sounds wonderful to the uninitiated until you look at what it will really mean for the area.

Seems the same as Sam’s
This is basically the same Bagot and Woods-designed development pitch put forward by developer Sam Arnaout in 2017 and was knocked out of the ball park by community objections and its failure to meet the existing building codes.

The previous Development Application (DA) was valued at $47.5 million for a mixed use development with 5,6,7 and 8-storey apartments plus parking for 101 cars.

Now Sam has dressed it up to look like it is meeting all of the objections raised from his previous DA, but the same underlying problems remain.

The proposal still sits on its 2,735 sqm base, and will decimate the amenity of the area for years as it demolishes the existing streetscape and then has to excavate for car parking and utilities areas.

“The amount of demolition required will drive near-by residents from their homes during the three year construction period,” Woodhouse said.

As mentioned in previous articles on this development, the impact of this project will be much greater than its footprint.

All of the residents along Barncleuth Lane at its rear will be impacted by dust, noise and vibration for six days a week.

The fallout from the development will affect over 200 hundred apartments in its immediate vicinity and open the floodgates for further Darlinghurst Road developments.

Kingsley Hall, the tall art deco building on the northern end of the project, will lose its light-wells and be under threat from structural damage over the course of the development.

No businesses will be viable in Roslyn Street, nor in Darlinghurst Road opposite the site.

The area will lose a much valued chemist and medical surgery and Giorgio’s Cafe will be no more.

The new design has also failed to address the many traffic issues, including access and egress of trucks during demolition and construction, followed by the number of resident vehicles using the single car width of Barncleuth Lane after construction.

All of this pain to the area, for the sake of one man putting more dollars into his pocket.

On my one meeting with Sam Arnaout he aired the Divine Right of developers to do what they want with property that he owns and was amazed that his planned development had created such ire in the community.

During the 19th century, property developers were called “speculators” and often suffered the vagaries of the market, or total failure.

The architectural render also appears to be appealing to the City of Sydney Council, who will have to green-light the project if it meets all the planning requirements.

“The artist’s impression is a “feeler” with political overtone, showing a bike shop for example,” Woodhouse said.

To date no Development Application has been lodged with the City of Sydney.

“The scheme does not satisfy Council’s planning rules in terms of enhancement of heritage or sympathy with its conservation area or streetscape,” Woodhouse said.

Iris Capital’s previous DA was lodged just before Christmas, possibly in the hope that it would get lost in the festive celebrations.

In the current clime it is obvious that no gatherings can be convened for discussion or objections, but if there is one thing this pandemic has taught us is the power and ease of social media – from a distance.

Since Iris Capital’s first DA, the City of Sydney have established new controls to protect the character of the Cross.

This proposal appears to not address any of them, but is certainly not the “jack-in-a box” design proffered by Bagot and Woods and must be taken seriously.

The manner in which this proposal has been released suggests that a gameplay is afoot and the people of Kings Cross and Potts Point will be facing a formidable opponent.

I have already booked the band.

City Hub’s previous reporting of development plans with The Bourbon:

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