Opinion by JOHN MOYLE
Whenever an area is termed “rich in heritage” you can bet that a developer will be quick to descend.
That is the case in Darlinghurst’s Hardie Street where over a couple of years a developer swooped on six in-line Victorian terraces and now threatens not only the heritage values of the area, but also the amenities of the people living within blocks of the proposed development.
Darlinghurst, originally known as Eastern Hill, was renamed in the early 19th century after Governor Darling’s wife, with the suffix “hurst” being Old English for wooded area.
One of the oldest suburbs in Sydney, Darlinghurst is the location of nine heritage-listed sites, plus the 1836 Darlinghurst Goal, the 1844 Darlinghurst Courthouse and the arts and crafts Darlinghurst Fire Station built in 1912.
Hardie Street is an innocuous little lane running from opposite the Darlo Bar on Liverpool Street and through to St Vincent’s Hospital at Burton Street.
It is lined on the eastern side with small but mostly intact single-storey terraces built for workers in the late 1800s.
Around 2018, developer Warwick Turner began buying up properties between 24 and 34 Hardie Street, often paying a premium.
Sales records for the street show that in October 2018 Turner paid $1.53 million for 28 Hardie Street and just six months later stumped up $2.4 million for 24 Hardie Street.
Terraces 30-34 date from the late 1870s and 24-28 from 1891.
All six buildings in the proposed development share common characteristic; they are double-storey, 101sqm in size and back onto Hayden Place, an even smaller street.
The proposal of D/2020/244 is for a five-storey hotel containing 69 rooms comprising of 66 double rooms and three single rooms and two loading dock spaces on the ground floor accessed from Hayden Place at the rear.
The combined site has an area of 631sqm.
“The development will result in the demolition of the greater part of six Victorian terraces, including internal walls, fireplaces and characteristic lean-to elements of heritage value,” Louise Brooks, Darlinghurst Residents Action Group (DRAG) said. “The remaining front rooms will be unrecognisable and of no heritage value.”
The Sydney Development Plan 2012 recognised the terraces as contributing to the built character of the area and the development conflicts with the stablished character and heritage significance of the “Oxford Street and Victoria Street Heritage Conservation Act.”
In a statement, Surry Hills-based Practec Group, working as design contractors for Warwick Turner, said “The overall layout is respectful of the urban surrounds and connected location of the property”.
A spokesperson for the East Sydney Neighbourhood Association (ESNA) said, “Consolidating the six terrace houses into a monolithic development would destroy the fine-grain, residential nature of Hardie Street.
This unsympathetic proposal would result in a poor planning and heritage outcome for Hardie Street and the Heritage Conservation area.”
Besides rising three levels above the present Hardie Street rooflines, the development will present a solid five-storey rear facade on Hayden Place that would “erode the amenity of the adding houses and apartments and create unacceptable overshadowing and loss of sunlight” DRAG said.
With no additional parking available on the single lane and already congested Hardie Street, narrow Hayden Place will bear the pressure of service vehicles and noise.
“It is also likely to seriously impact congestion and street side parking for residents and other road users in the area, including potentially visitors to St Vincent’s” DRAG said.
There are also overshadowing problems for 36 and 38 Hardie Street and the development will overlook windows at 381 and 385 Liverpool Street and 136 Darlinghurst Road.
“The development does not provide any private outdoor space or amenities such as a cafe, pool or gym, it simply provides basic rooms and some of those don’t have windows,” Louise Brooks said.
At just 10.4sqm, the smallest room is the same size as the minimum sized NSW jail cell.
With the consolidation of the six terraces to accommodate transient visitors in what is essentially an AirBnB, the development removes housing stock from the area thus eroding the community and leading to a negative impact on the neighbourhood.
The DA says that visitor hours will be curtailed at 10pm, but this is an unrealistic time for guests who will be attending live theatre or a show who are more likely to be returning closer to midnight.
Both DRAG and ESNA are urging residents to lodge objections to D/2020/244 to Matthew Girvan at firstname.lastname@example.org by no later than Thursday 4 June.
Your objection should include your full name and address, the DA number for 24-34 Hardie Street, your reasons for the objection plus the disclosure of any gift or donation you have made in the past to a councillor, an employee out a contractor of the City of Sydney.
“We call upon the City of Sydney to protect the fragile heritage of Darlinghurst,” an ESNA spokesperson said.