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Developer hits back over Wright St hotel heritage debate

Local

The developer in charge of a proposed new 16-storey hotel at the site of a local-heritage listed cottage on Wright Street has hit back against critics, arguing the development would retain the existing building’s heritage features and drive business to the city’s southwest.

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InDaily reported last week that a development application had been submitted to partially demolish a set of bluestone row cottages at 134 and 136 Wright Street to make way for a $10.9 million “16-storey tourist accommodation with rooftop terrace”.

One of the cottages, which was built in 1880, is listed on the Adelaide City Council’s local heritage register.

Planning changes implemented by former Planning Minister John Rau in the last term of the Weatherill Labor Government mean the proposal is automatically granted category one development status, meaning the public won’t be consulted on the plans before a decision is made.

But local developer Starfish Developments, which is partnering with planning company Future Urban Group, has provided InDaily with the concept images for the site, which show the local heritage-listed cottage’s front façade and exterior side wall retained to make way for a modern 100-room “boutique” hotel at the rear.

Starfish argues the design would exceed development requirements by retaining all three cottages at the site – despite only one of the cottages being heritage listed.

In a statement, it said the “virtually-derelict and rundown houses” had been empty for approximately three years, with only the front façade and exterior walls required to be retained.

“It’s quite a run-down building, so we saw the opportunity there to demonstrate what can be done with the site in sort of a context of the future,” project director Craig McRostie told InDaily.

“We’ve dug into the history of the building itself – the cottage that is listed is the eastern one and that was built first and then sometime later the adjoining two cottages were built.

“We could have obviously just retained that single cottage at the end and complied with development regulations and demolished the remainder, but we saw the value in retaining the entire façade as well as the book-end and then developing the site onwards from there.”

Image: Starfish Developments

McRostie said a tender process was currently underway to select an operator for the hotel, which would only provide accommodation and not restaurant or bar spaces.

He said the hotel would likely earn a four-star rating and would benefit from its close proximity to restaurants along Gouger Street.

“We are excited to be continuing to add to the vibrancy and rejuvenation of the southwest corner of the city.

“The new Wright Street hotel will attract more visitor and business interest to the area making it an even better place to live, work or invest.”

The bluestone row cottages on Wright Street are up for partial demolition to make way for a 16-storey hotel. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

The hotel, which is yet to be granted development approved from the State Commission Assessment Panel (SCAP), is the latest in a spate of new hotel developments either on the cards or in construction across the city.

InDaily reported in August concerns from hotel groups that Adelaide’s rapidly expanding market could lead to a “glut” of empty rooms unless the State Government boosted its tourism spending.

According to the Australian Hotel Association, up to 4000 new hotel rooms are on the cards for Adelaide over the next five years, including 21 luxury hotel developments.

McRostie said international hotel operators were expressing a growing interest in tapping into the Adelaide market following the completion of the Adelaide Oval and Convention Centre redevelopments.

“If you look at the occupancy rates of the existing hotels they’re some of the highest occupancy rates in the nation,” he said.

“You’ve got a lot of operators that don’t have a presence in Adelaide, or maybe only one of their brands will have a presence here, so they really see the potential for growth in this city.

“Certainly over the summer periods there’s very strong demand.”

If SCAP gives the Wright Street hotel development the go-ahead, Starfish anticipates construction could start by the end of this year.

Adelaide City councillors Anne Moran and Alexander Hyde last week criticised the proposed hotel’s location and scale, with Hyde saying it would be “obviously out of character with other neighbouring heritage places”.

But McRostie said the development was “all about letting the city progress, not getting stuck into issues that don’t exist”.

Starfish Developments is also transforming the former Marine and Harbours building at Dock One in Port Adelaide into a $30 million, 10-storey hotel with adjoining suites floating over the Port River.

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