Residents in Sydney’s Erskineville are seeking an interim heritage order on the Swanson Hotel, after its owners lodged plans to redevelop the upper levels into apartments.
The pub, which has been closed since mid 2017, will be retained on the ground floor and basement, with the owners of the Newtown bar Gurdys to operate the venue when it reopens.
Developer Eastern Property Alliance, led by KPMG investment banker Jon Adgemis, has proposed to convert the existing first floor and build three new levels for residential use. The $2.9-million redevelopment will yield a five-storey, mixed-use building with 10 apartments.
But the community wants an interim heritage order placed on the site, which is not heritage-listed. An interim heritage order buys 12 months of protection time for the building to undergo a full heritage assessment.
City of Sydney councillor Linda Scott confirmed that she had “requested City staff explore the possibility of seeking an interim heritage order”.
Local resident Isabel McIntosh, who is on the Friends of Erskineville committee, said she and other community members are concerned about the loss of heritage value caused by the redevelopment.
“Sydney has to protect its network of art deco buildings still visible across its suburbs,” she said.
The resident also pointed out that the modified building would be inconsistent with the surrounding properties.
“It is a high profile corner site and the development would also be significantly higher than anything else in local vicinity,” she said.
“(It would) create a very damaging precedent for future development on this side of Harry Noble park for a contribution of just 10 dwellings.”
Sydney Architecture Studio director Ken McBryde, the architect working on the Swanson Hotel project, said he aimed to restore “a kind of community pub feel on the ground floor”.
“The design vision is to reinvigorate what has been a struggling community building and bring it back to a contemporary relevance in the community,” he said.
“In addition to that, the basement will be opened up, at the moment it’s full of rats and kegs and compressors and stuff. Part of our design brief is to reinstate the ground floor pub and the basement into accessible spaces for the community.”
There was a need to reactivate the pub and turn it into a place where people would see as a destination, Mr McBryde said.
“Our architects wouldn’t get to refurbish old pubs if they were doing really well. This one isn’t, it’s struggling,” he said.
He added that they had made sure to retain in the plans as much of the existing fabric as possible, including the external façade, parapet and internal features of the ground floor pub.
“Everything from the decorative glass to the existing lighting fixtures came into consideration,” he said.
“Preserving this and the entire existing ground floor, pushes the height of the shop-top residential insert, higher than it otherwise would be.”
He said many residents wrongly believed the pub would be removed.
“The DA (development application) we put in for the upper levels, not the ground floor and the basement so the only things people have seen is the residential (part). It’s just a separate piece of work so it’s a separate DA,” he said.
Simon Quinn, from Eastern Property Alliance, said the pub could start trading as early as August as the site already has a liquor license.
Built in the 1930s, the Swanson Hotel, formally known as Kurrajong Hotel, was originally owned by Tooth and Company, a major beer brewer in NSW up until the 1980s.
The hotel’s appearance has not changed since it first opened in 1939.
Historic pubs with development potential have been targeted by developers in recent years. The Alexandria Hotel in Sydney’s inner south had also been earmarked for demolition and residential development in 2015 but was granted an interim heritage order, before Justin Hemmes bought it for $10 million in 2016.
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