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City development set for approval despite Govt Architect concerns

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The state’s planning panel is being urged to approve a 17-storey motel at the site of a local-heritage listed cottage on Wright Street – despite the Government Architect warning the building is too tall and out of character with heritage values of the surrounding neighbourhood.

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InDaily reported in January that local developer Starfish Developments had lodged plans to partially demolish a set of bluestone row cottages at 134 and 136 Wright Street and build what was then touted as a $10.9 million “16-storey tourist accommodation with rooftop terrace”.

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

New development plans lodged with the State Commission Assessment Panel show the building’s height has since increased to 17-storeys or 57.7 metres – 14.7 metres above the maximum regulated height for the area.

The panel’s members are being asked by their administration to make a height exemption in compensation for Starfish Developments proposing to partially retain the front façade of the bluestone cottages.

Under state guidelines, local heritage protection only applies to what can be viewed from the street.

“The proposed development attempts to sensitively respond to the local heritage place and streetscape through subtle material choice and building articulation,” a SCAP agenda paper states.

“The design and appearance of the development is finely balanced but is ultimately considered acceptable for this site.”

The 1880 row cottages on Wright Street could be partially demolished to make way for a new 17-storey motel. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

However, in a letter to the panel in February – made public this month – Government Architect Kirsteen Mackay wrote that she was “yet to be convinced” that the proposed 100-room motel’s height could be justified.

“My support for proposals exceeding the envisaged maximum height, particularly in this locality that interfaces an area with small-scale residential buildings, would also be contingent on contextual response to the historic buildings, including the local heritage place and the fine-grain character of the area,” she wrote.

“I am of the view that this is yet to be successfully demonstrated.”

Mackay added that she was also “yet to be convinced” that the contemporary design would suit the neighbourhood, which is largely comprised of small, heritage-listed cottages.

She wrote that she was particularly concerned about a proposed iron and copper-clad three-storey podium, which would be affixed to the bluestone cottages to serve as the entrance to the motel.

“In my view, the application of bold geometry detracts from the built form of the historic built fabric,” she wrote.

“These matters warrant further review and resolution prior to the State Commission Assessment Panel.”

Image: Starfish Developments

According to the SCAP paper, “some elements of the development are subjective and could the further reviewed,” but, “on balance the architectural expression and design response to the immediate locality is considered acceptable”.

Starfish, which has partnered with planning company Future Urban Group, 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 to InDaily in January, 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.

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.

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

However, in the council’s formal submission to the SCAP, senior planner Danni Biar described the proposed motel’s design as “reasonable”.

SCAP members will vote on the development application on Wednesday.

The development has been classified as a motel as it will not be licensed.

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