The proposed demolishment and redevelopment of iconic buildings in Kings Cross including The Bourbon and Empire Hotels has been scrapped ‘altogether’. (Well the current plan anyway)
In February, we chronicled the saga of how a chorus of angry community backlash had derailed a $48 million development including 83 apartments in a 9-storey tower.
The development would also have featured cafes, restaurants, bars and shops, with developer Iris Capital comparing it with its nearby Omnia Building which comprises 135 high-end luxury apartments within a single 19-storey tower offering sweeping Sydney CBD skyline views to the west and stunning harbour views over Elizabeth Bay, Watsons Bay and North and South Heads to the east.
A petition and rally against ‘the Bourbon redevelopment’ took place, and the City of Sydney was bombarded with official objections after developers said they wanted to bulldoze a pharmacy, a yoga school, a medical practice and the iconic 1880 Bourbon & Beefsteak building on Darlinghurst Road.
Locals argued that bulldozing the Bourbon, as well as The Empire Hotel which housed the famous Les Girls cabaret show, hacked too deeply at the heart and soul of Kings Cross. The developers hit back, saying they wanted to create a “village” and “boutique” lifestyle.
But the Council refused to simply rubber stamp the project, amid suggestions one way to push it through a new assessment process might be to preserve the old Bourbon & Beefsteak facade.
“Stay tuned!” Strataville surmised on February 16.
So what’s the latest news?
Just days ago, developer Iris Capital dropped the plans altogether. “I don’t want this to be what I’m remembered for,” said chief executive Sam Arnaout.
“I don’t want this to be my legacy.”
Sydney’s Lord Mayor Clover Moore applauded the news about the original 700-page development application – or DA – being completely withdrawn.
“This is an absolute credit to strong community opposition to what was an out of character and inappropriate redevelopment for this significant and prominent Kings Cross site,” she said.
Councillor Professor Kerryn Phelps agreed: “Because you spoke up and took action, the DA for the Bourbon-Empire site has been withdrawn. It is so important to protect the character and heritage of our neighbourhoods.”
And what’s next?
Arnaout is going back to the drawing board, pledging to work with the community on a development that makes everyone happy.
“This place is my life,” he insisted. “I love this place. I only want the best for it.”
According to some, the problem with Iris’ initial 700-page DA was that a stylish building like the Omnia was not possible because of the heritage listing of one original building on the site. But also true is that one of the major objections to the plans was that the iconic white arches of the Bourbon would have been smashed down.
“Clearly the community does not believe we got the balance right,” Arnaout conceded.
But Andrew Woodhouse, who heads the Potts Point and Kings Cross Heritage Society, does not think Iris is serious about getting any follow-up DAs right, either.
“The developer refused to attend our rally or community meetings despite being invited,” he said. “We’ve won the battle but not the war.”
So, the Bourbon redevelopment hits a brick wall and as we said in February, stay tuned. Again!