A former Federation warehouse in Sydney’s CBD could be converted into a boutique hotel under new $9.4 million plans, despite the block already having a three-year-old approval for a taller property.
Private developer Wisdom Fortune has proposed to add 115 hotel rooms to the property, known as Unison House, at 53-55 Liverpool Street, in the city’s Spanish quarter.
The five-storey building is set on a 795-square-metre, L-shaped block with 3684 square metres of gross floor area.
The site has existing approval, granted to the same developer in 2016, for a 152-room hotel with a three-storey addition on top – plans which have now been scrapped by the developer as “the scope and design of the boutique hotel has changed”, according to planning documents.
That project, with a $13.75 million budget, was supposed to begin construction last year with consent lapsing in 2021.
An artist’s impression of the previous development. The new plan also includes a new side entrance. Image: JSA Studio Architects
Wisdom Fortune owner Stanley Fang could not be reached for comment before publication.
Amenities in the proposed 3.5-star hotel will include a lobby, restaurant and bar on the ground floor and end-of-trip facilities in the basement.
The plans also include a 241-square-metre basement commercial tenancy and a new hotel entrance on Douglass Street.
While the Liverpool Street frontage will be restored, the original triple-arched openings to Douglass Street will be reconstructed as the main hotel entrance.
The original timber windows, external brickwork and stone fabric will also be reinstated.
Wisdom Fortune, which will operate the hotel, will apply for a hotel license but no gambling will be proposed for the property.
Citing the City of Sydney’s Visitor Accommodation Action Plan 2015, the proposal notes that the market is dominated by four and five-star rooms, with rooms rated 3.5 stars or lower accounting for 16 per cent of the total, yet three-star hotels have the highest occupancy rate.
“The action plan recognises that the greatest demand for hotel accommodation is in the standard-grade, three-star range, delivered through the conversion of old and underutilised office stock,” the planning documents say.
“This demand is not currently being met, with a high proportion of new hotel rooms being delivered in the premium grade, four to five-star range.”
Sydney remained the strongest hotel market in Australia in 2018, with the highest occupancy rate at 87.1 per cent and the highest average room rate of $261, according to Colliers International figures.
Unison House is not the only Federation warehouse that has been earmarked by developers for boutique hotel projects.
Sydney-based Yeh’s Hospitality Group, led by Johnson Yeh, was given the green light in September 2018 to convert 7-9 Wilmot Street, Sydney, into a seven-storey hotel.
The Yehs also own and operate the three-star Sydney Hotel CBD at 88 Liverpool Street, the former Spanish Club and Federation warehouse across the road from Unison House.
And at 49-53 Wentworth Avenue, Surry Hills, Melbourne-based Golden Age, led by Jeff Xu, scored development approval for a 19-storey hotel in December 2018.
But Unison House is noted particularly for being a “remarkably intact Federation warehouse”, according to its heritage record.
Built in 1901, the existing building is made up of two separate structures interconnected on each level.
“The building is one of a dwindling number of warehouses in this part of the city which was formerly a thriving warehouse precinct connected with the Darling Harbour wharves and rail yards,” the heritage records say.
The basement was once the premises of live music venue Goodgod Small Club, which shut its doors in 2015 partly due to pressure from the lockout laws.
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