Some of the most iconic sights of Kings Cross, including the historic old former Bourbon & Beefsteak and the building that housed Les Girls, would be demolished in a massive redevelopment program poised to change the face of the area.
Four buildings along Darlinghurst Road between the El Alamein Fountain in Fitzroy Gardens and the landmark Empire Hotel on the corner are proposed to be pulled down in a $47.5 million development application before the City of Sydney.
Already the application, described as “the single most important plan to be considered by council for this area in the last half a century” is provoking alarm from some residents.
“This will completely change the face of Kings Cross and its social structure,” said Andrew Woodhouse, president of the Potts Point and Kings Cross Heritage Society.
“It breaches 40 planning rules and heritage conservation guidelines. We adamantly oppose demolition of the white Bourbon building. This is not a DA; it’s an EA – an Exploitation Application.”
The plan, by developer group Piccadilly Freehold, calls for the demolition of most of the existing structures along the block, apart from parts of the white-arched Bourbon fa??ade.
In its place would be an eight-storey block of 83 apartments with basement parking for 100 cars. There would be new cafes, restaurants and shops on the ground floor, with the units over them.
Developer Sam Arnaout, also the CEO of IRIS Capital, says the 700-page DA is part of a massive revitalisation of a “decaying” part of the city and its transformation into a new food and entertainment complex, with laneways and luxury apartments.
“There’s no doubt that it will really significantly add to, and improve, an area that has long been decaying,” Mr Arnaout said. “Of course, some people will hate the idea of it but others will love the fact we’ll be renewing an area that’s already in a state of transition.
“We’ve been working very closely with the council over the last 12 months to come up with a plan that will integrate into the area very well. It’s going to be an amazing part of the revitalisation of Potts Point that’s been going through a renaissance for a while now and coming back into its own.”
Construction is set to take three to four years, with the shops and cafes opposite already talking about demanding compensation from the city for custom lost through noise and dust and disruption. The Bourbon and Empire bars would return but on a smaller scale.
Local architect and resident Simon Gollon said he was shocked when he examined the small print of the DA, which allows comments only until January 24.
“It’s incredible that this might be allowed to happen in a heritage conservation area,” he says. There are such iconic buildings here, with both Victorian architectural and cultural merit but they’re set to go.
“Places like the Bourbon and the building that housed Les Girls, and where Carlotta started, are such institutions from the past, they should be treasured, rather than knocked down and replaced with such a generic building with a blank wall that could be anywhere in Sydney. It looks as though the developers are trying to maximise the floor space to fit in as many apartments as possible rather than ever considering good architecture.”
The existing buildings exhibit elements of Victorian, Mid Century Modern and Federation detailing, with the Bourbon building dating from the 1880s.
Mr Woodhouse says the Woods Bagot building proposed for the site does nothing to add to the streetscape for which Kings Cross is so well known. “The quality of the design reminds me of Robyn Boyd’s 1960 architectural bible, The Australian Ugliness,” he says.
“It’s a Lego-like, bland building block with no design merit. “To claim this bold behemoth, even allowing for part retention of the fa??ade of a backpackers’ hostel, can add to the fine-grained texture of the area and adds vibrancy to the streetscape is a nonsense on stilts.”
But Mr Arnaout insists that the Kings Cross area of Potts Point is going through a rebirth, and this plan will contribute hugely to that vision. “This will help create much more of a village atmosphere with a boutique lifestyle.
“Where the transition is happening in parts of the area, there’s a huge vacuum left in others. It’s now time to fill that vacuum to contribute to its rejuvenation and to make that commercially viable, we need to build apartments and retail too.
“This area will be a great complement to the city and once people realise how significant and important this development will be, I think they’ll be supportive.”
At an estimated $47 million, the project would be assessed for approval by the City of Sydney Council. The development’s proposed height would exceed the current height limit of 22 metres in places.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.