Opinion by JOHN MOYLE
Not since the Green Bans and the Victoria Street wars of the ‘70s has Kings Cross faced such a powerful and existential threat to its existence.
Under the cover of COVID on Friday 11th of September Iris Capital for developer Sam Arnaout lodged its second Development Application with the City of Sydney.
The DA is for mixed use development and covers 18 to 32A Darlinghurst Road, Potts Point.
For those familiar with the area this takes in the block from Darlinghurst Road to Barncleuth Square at the rear and extends from Blake’s Chemist to the Empire Hotel.
Everything in the area, with the exception of the old Lido Hotel on Roslyn Street, will be razed and be excavated to the depth of 15 metres.
Over a period of four years residents, businesses and visitors will be subjected to dust, noise, vibrations and explosions from 7am to 5pm six days a week over a four year period.
“Many small business’s livelihoods will be impacted as the site utilises several small streets where several cafes, retail and restaurants are adjacent,” Carrington Brigham, Executive Chairman, Potts Point Partnership said.
“The construction, noise and dust will impact them and any potential customers.”
The DA was lodged without supporting documents, but a City of Sydney Spokesperson said “The notification period for the DA will commence within the next week and documentation submitted with the application will be made available online.”
The DA is under City of Sydney DA-2020/916 and the notification period will run for 28 days within which time objections can be lodged and petitions signed.
Without signing the supporting documents these will most likely be similar to the ones that Iris Capital used for a spurious design competition that was covered by the City Hub on April 29th this year.
That development was valued at $47.5 million while the new DA is for a project valued at $65,444,808.
“It will go to the City of Sydney for a planning report and will then go to the Independent Planning Committee which is made up of NSW government selected appointees,” Andrew Woodhouse, President of the Potts Point and Kings Cross Heritage and Residents Society said.
Andrew Woodhouse has lived in the area for over twenty years and knows his way around development applications better than most.
Commenting further on the April submission Woodhouse said “The heritage impact study is flawed, the retention of the current Bourbon is limited to tokenistic “facadism” and the amount of demolition will drive residents from their homes and force local businesses to close.”
“The scheme does not satisfy council’s planning rules in terms of enhancement of heritage or summitry with its heritage conservation area or streetscape.”
Architects Tonkinzulaikhagreer (TZG) have made much of the retention of the two 19th century arches used in the current Bourbon facade in their renditions, but this is there simply to appease those who want a nod to heritage values.
The arches in any form are hollow tokenism and void of any architectural or heritage values.
The view that this development will be the end of the Cross is not without foundation when considering that the area is already suffering from six years of lockouts and will shortly face a 18 month long disruption for the Macleay Street upgrade that will coincide with the Bourbon development.
Just as NSW Treasury minister Stuart Ayres releases his department’s Sydney 24 Hour Economy Strategy to help revitalise areas such as Kings Cross/Potts Point the area will face not one, but two large disruptions to its liveability and workplaces.
It seems that the Cross just cannot get a break even when it is on the ropes and will be thrown a lifeline with the new 24 hour strategy and the hopeful repeal of the lockout laws later in the year.
On top of that we have some government departments and ministerial offices supporting development at all cost as we read daily in the “Terror”.
It appears that developer disruption has already hit the local KX Community Centre when this week they were told by the City of Sydney that they would need to vacate their new pop-up shop by Wednesday next week.
Since COVID-19 hit in March, the Community Centre, which supplies essential services such as shopping to the elderly and needy in the area, has been unable to conduct their weekly jumble stall that supplements their income from grants and bequests.
For a number of years the Austrian/German restaurant next door in the Rex Centre had leased a shop next to the Centre operating as “Maggie Chows” bar and restaurant.
All premises are owned by the City of Sydney.
“When Maggies closed Maggie Chow’s next door we saw an opportunity fro a pop-up shop and we thought that we could raise some money for us and also be a community service,” Robyn Greaves, Coordinator, Kings Cross Community Centre said.
The Centre had an agreement with CoS to lease the shop at a much reduced rental and spent three weeks stocking it.
Preparing to open under COVID-19 safety rules, on that morning of last Wednesday, Ms Greaves was visited by an property agent from Pharos Retail, two men and a female photographer.
“I spoke to one of the owners of Maggie’s and he told me that a developer was taking the shop for two years as a showroom,” Ms Greaves said.
“We took the shop three weeks ago and it will be closed next Wednesday.”
City Hub’s questions about this development to City of Sydney have gone unanswered at the time of writing.
It would seem that the most likely candidate for the shop would be Iris Capital to display their apartments and shops for sale.
If so, what a way for a developer to begin engagement with the community by killing off potential income for a local community centre.
This may also raise questions of the City of Sydney’s impartiality by reneging on a tacit agreement for a community centre which they partially fund and are housed on their premises.
With the DA running for 28 days from next week there is time for objections to Matthew Girvan, City of Sydney, phone 02 9265 9333 or email email@example.com.
A new change.org petition can be found at https://www.change.org/p/clover-moore-stop-the-killing-of-darlinghurst-road-now.