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City Councillor wants to gift old Le Cornu site for 'Oval Hotel'

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UPDATED: Adelaide City Council will consider offering the State Government a section of the vacant old Le Cornu site as an alternative location for the Adelaide Oval Hotel.

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Area councillor Anne Moran told InDaily this morning she has a motion on notice asking that the Adelaide City Council request a meeting with the State Government and Adelaide Oval Stadium Management Authority to discuss building the proposed hotel on the former Le Cornu site at 88 O’Connell Street.

But Planning Minister Stephan Knoll has swiftly rejected Moran’s proposal, saying it would “defeat the whole purpose of the development”.

Adelaide Oval management spruiked plans for a 128-room boutique hotel in November, with Premier Steven Marshall at the time announcing the Government would provide a loan of up to $42 million at commercial rates to fund the project.

Plans show the hotel will be integrated into the Oval’s eastern façade and will be open by August next year.

Adelaide City Council, park lands advocates and hoteliers have objected the plans, arguing the Oval Hotel would create unfair competition for nearby hotels and would infringe on the park lands.

Moran said building the hotel at 88 O’Connell Street would be a “sensible” and “honest” solution to quell people’s objections to the build.

She said the hotel would ideally only occupy about a quarter of the site and would help spark developer interest along North Adelaide’s struggling O’Connell Street precinct.

“We could sell it to the Government at the same rate at what we bought it for, we could lease it at below commercial rates, or we could gift it to them but still generate revenue from it from income sharing,” Moran said.

“We are sitting here with this prime piece of real estate and so all we would be doing is offering them the opportunity to take advantage of that and get them to build the hotel on private land rather than sacrificing the park lands.”

A render for the Adelaide Oval Hotel designed by COX Architecture.

Moran said 88 O’Connell Street’s close proximity to Adelaide Oval meant it was a “perfect opportunity” for the State Government to invest in North Adelaide, adding that patrons could benefit from a tram extension along O’Connell Street that would link the hotel to the oval.

She said hotel patrons would be better-off staying in a hotel that was not integrated into a stadium due to potential noise concerns.

“Most of the people coming from interstate to use the hotel would be coming for conferences, so the last thing they want to be hearing is AC/DC music blasting at night,” she said.

“Having it in North Adelaide would help activate the area and create interest in the Le Cornu site, because I just think there is not going to be a lot of takers in the site and we need to have more of an incentive for developers to build there.”

The council announced in 2017 that it had bought the former Le Cornu site for $34 million to end years of inactivity on the prominent site.

The sale price was up to $14 million above the site’s professionally assessed value.

Area councillor Anne Moran. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

The council launched a worldwide Expressions of Interest process in September last year to secure a mixed-use development proposal for the site. It also published a list of “guiding principles”, which will form the framework for assessing proposals from developers.

The Expressions of Interest process closed in November, with the outcome of that process yet to be released by the council.

Moran said building the Oval Hotel at 88 O’Connell Street would not be at cross-purposes with the Expressions of Interest process, as “there are still no solid plans”.

But fellow area councillor Arman Abrahimzadeh said his immediate response to Moran’s proposal would be to hold off on entering into an agreement with the SMA and State Government due to his concern it could “jeopardise” the Expressions of Interest process.

“We have had this Expressions of Interest process open for a while and it has now closed so if we start talking about moving this project to 88 O’Connell Street it could have implications on how that then pans out,” he said.

“This could be seen as a detour and it could deter developers from investing in the area.”

Councillors Robert Simms and Phil Martin said they were both open to having the hotel built at 88 O’Connell Street as it could persuade the Government to not build the hotel on the park lands.

Martin added ratepayers were already in support of building an “international-standard” hotel on the site, which he said could provide an alternate revenue-stream for the council.

“This is not just doable, but it’s consistent with the public expectations,” he said.

“Most of the people I know think that the hotel at the oval is one of the worst decisions made by the SMA, so I think this proposal by Anne is splendid.”

But Knoll slammed Moran’s proposal, labelling opposition from Adelaide City Council as “disappointing”.

“The State Government is committed to the Adelaide Oval Hotel development,” he said in a statement to InDaily.  

“Moving the hotel from Adelaide Oval to the old Le Cornu site defeats the whole purpose of the development.

“The hotel has received developer approval after significant work and review with the Office for Design and Architect SA, which will ensure the design will not impact one blade of grass on our treasured park lands.”

An Adelaide Oval SMA spokesperson said it was “disappointing” that City Council did not take up an offer for a further detailed briefing on the Adelaide Oval Hotel in early December.

“Had this offer been taken up after it was made seven weeks ago, Councillor Moran would understand that one of the key reasons for the proposal is to maintain Adelaide Oval’s position as an internationally recognised stadium, and, critically, one that is able to continue competing for events on a global scale.”

Moran’s notice of motion comes as the council prepares to debate a draft submission to a parliamentary inquiry into the Adelaide Oval Hotel at tomorrow night’s council meeting.

The council argues in the draft submission that is has been consistently kept in the dark by the SMA regarding the development of the stadium and that developing a hotel on the oval would compromise nearby hotels.

Knoll said the Government would continue to work with the council and other stakeholders in the lead up to the hotel build.

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