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After 8 years, controversial Nimbin development site is put up for sale

September 26, 2018

The popular Oasis Cafe in Nimbin is part of the property that is being sold. Photo: Supplied

Two adjoining properties in the “hippy capital of Australia”, Nimbin, are up for sale after its owner’s successful eight-year campaign for council approval to build a hotel on the site.

The properties, at 80 and 82 Cullen Street – the main road in Nimbin – have been listed for sale by its owner, Sydney-based investor John Seymour.

The site currently houses 12 tenants, including a cafe, in one building, but comes with DA approval for a 24-room “boutique hotel” to be built on the rest of the site.

It took Mr Seymour nearly 10 years to design the development and eventually receive council approval, but he has now been forced to sell the property due to health reasons.

Ray White GC South Network director Jared Hodge said it was a unique opportunity for a buyer, with much of the hard work already completed.

“I don’t think you’ll see that again, it was a battle for John to get it done,” Mr Hodge said.

The adjoining properties are on Nimbin's main street. Photo: Supplied The adjoining properties are on Nimbin’s main street. Photo: Supplied

Nimbin is a small town in the far-north east of NSW, with a population of just under 1500 people. But it is popular with tourists thanks to its counter-culture reputation and environmental focus.

But a lack of accommodation for these tourists presented an opportunity for a hotel development such as this, Mr Hodge said.

“There’s no real short-term accommodation there at all, but there are a lot of travellers, backpackers and tourists going from Byron to Nimbin – that’s the common path,” he said.

“But there’s nowhere to stay, there’s no doubt that the area needs it.”

The development has been controversial in the small community, with some dubbing it a “monstrosity”, an “eye-sore” and an “attempt to cash-in on Nimbin’s unique attractiveness”.

The planned hotel, dubbed The Cubes, would include 24 units aimed at overnight accommodation, with original plans for the units to be made from repurposed shipping containers.

Nimbin's colourful shopping strip is popular with tourists. Photo: Supplied Nimbin’s colourful shopping strip is popular with tourists. Photo: Supplied

“The development…would be the only proper overnight accommodation in downtown Nimbin,” Mr Seymour said.

“Compare that to Byron, which is completely overcrowded with hotels and motels. The Cubes development was almost 10 years in design, planning and approval with Lismore Council.

“Nimbin is recognised as the hippy capital of Australia and with so few places to stay and being the second most-popular tourist destination in NSW, after Byron, overnight accommodation facilities are desperately needed.”

The Oasis Cafe is the current anchor tenant of the two properties, and would become the in-house restaurant of the hotel once it was built. Mr Seymour said the only vacancies out of the 12 tenants had been short periods between when one tenant left and another took their place.

“The future of 80 and 82 Cullen Street, with The Cubes developed, makes this investment a real gold mine,” Mr Seymour said.

An artist's impression of proposed hotel, The Cubes, on the site. Image: The Cubes An artist’s impression of proposed hotel, The Cubes, on the site. Image: The Cubes

While he would not reveal the price guide, Mr Hodge said he expected a lot of interest in the sale.

“Nimbin has got a bit of a following, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a local connection.”

The original application to council in 2016 was for 32 motel units on the site, but the Lismore Council forced this to be reduced to 24, and for additional car parking to be provided. The application was eventually approved in mid-2016.

The council received a number of submissions on the application, with the majority opposing it.

But Mr Hodge said he hoped the town had moved on from the controversy.

“There’s no doubt that the town needs it,” he said. “People that are reasonably commercial know that it’ll be good for the town. I don’t think [the controversy] will impede sales – it will take someone that has some foresight like John did.”

In a submission to the council, one local resident labelled the planned building as an “out-of-place monstrosity”.

“This is plainly Byron Bay-style, and we’ve made it clear on numerous occasions that this is not what’s wanted here,” resident Ian Smith had said.

Another local Tim Dowsett said the hotel would “very likely driving a nail into the coffin” of the town.

“Places like this are extremely rare in the world, there is no other Nimbin,” Mr Dowsett said.

But the development does have the support from some residents and businesses who in their submissions acknowledged the need for more accommodation in the area.

“As a main street business owner, I am regularly faced with company representatives who wish to visit but have not suitable accommodation within the village to stay,” Darren Butcher said.

“I believe the proposed development has the potential to attract a different overnight accommodation crowd which would benefit Nimbin economically and socially and provide employment opportunities within the village.”

The property is being sold via an ‘offers to purchase’ campaign closing in mid-October.

 

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