It was once the site of possibly the worst hotel in Australia, notorious as a hotbed of drugs, crime and prostitution with room amenities that included a needle-disposal bin.
But now the former star of the TV Kings Cross crime series Underbelly, the Astoria Hotel, is set to join Potts Point’s burgeoning luxury boutique hotels.
The once-infamous no-star hotel – which has since been refurbished and rebranded and is now running as the two-to-three-star Astoria Space Pop-Up – could next become a four-star property.
A pre-development application has just been lodged with the City of Sydney to revamp and extend the Astoria Space on the corner of Darlinghurst Road and Macleay Street, increase the number of rooms from 51 to 65, and turn the two and four-storey stepped rooflines into a single five-level structure.
“It’s going to be a really beautiful new hotel,” said architect Mark Shapiro of his eponymously named firm, who’s designed the project. “It will have a modern extension that’s really contemporary yet which pays its respects, and responds to, the heritage of the building and its context.
“Once the council and the local residents see the proposal, I would hope they’d agree it’s going to be a very desirable outcome in terms of upgrading the building, and respecting it, at the same time.”
The hotel is the second new boutique property being planned in as many months, with plans being lodged to turn the old Commonwealth Bank building on the other side of Darlinghurst Road, until recently running as The Bank nightclub, into a $7.5 million luxury 38-room hotel. Its plans include adding four more levels to its current two storeys, and is currently open for public comment.
A third DA has now been lodged for the upgrading of another old stalwart, the Holiday Lodge Hotel at 55 Macleay Street, to undergo a $2.5 million refurbishment, with additions, to create a luxury boutique hotel of 15 rooms with a licensed restaurant below.
The three new projects, if they’re given the go-ahead, will join a huge number of boutique hotels already operating in Potts Point.
“There’s lot of stuff going on in that area,” said Dean Long, chief executive of Accommodation Australia. “I think it’s happening there as it’s part of the urban renewal process, and it’s a pretty funky area with so much happening.
“Although COVID-19 has hit the sector hard – with hotel revenues and occupancy 85 per cent down – it definitely shows the underlying strength of the market in the long term. There’s a real demand for boutique accommodation and we’ll see that as the number of visitors come back, looking for all styles of hotel,” he said.
Already, there are more than a dozen boutique hotels in Potts Point, including the new III Rooms Sydney at 61-63 Macleay Street, on the corner with Challis Avenue, comprising three serviced apartments, each fitted out in collaboration with a different furniture design house – Cult Design, MCM House and Jardan Furniture. It joins others such as Spicers, Hotel Challis, the Larmont, Macleay Hotel, The Bayswater Sydney, The Maisonette, Regents Court, Quest Potts Point, Annam Serviced Apartments, Springfield Lodge and The Jensen.
At The Jensen, on Macleay Street, which was previously Macleay Lodge before being refurbished and rebranded a year-and-a-half ago, guesthouse manager Jordon Austin said Potts Point was the ideal location to stay.
“It’s got so much interesting history and all the amazing art deco buildings,” she said.
“It also has that New York flair and it’s a real foodie hub, with some awesome restaurants around. People love coming here.”
Around the corner, on Springfield Avenue, Glen Cooke is the duty manager of Springfield Lodge. “It’s a fantastic area for boutique hotels,” he said. “It has a lot of really interesting shops with homewares and fashion and pop-ups that are so different to the usual main-street shopping strips.
“There’s a real vibrancy here, and fantastic cafes and restaurants, Llankelly Place which is just like a Melbourne laneway, and a Parisian kind of feel with so much outdoor dining and tables. It’s no wonder people want to stay here.”
Dating from 1905, the old Astoria Hotel – one of the longest-running hotels in Sydney – and its corner building was bought in September 2014 for $6.3 million by developer Theo Onisforou. He declined to comment on the application.
Recently, his daughter Stephanie opened, in partnership with French cafe operator Joffrey Van Asten, a new Parisian-style cafe, Cafe de la Fontaine, on the corner. It’s understood that the cafe will stay, but will be amalgamated into a new foyer for the hotel.
The proposal retains existing retail uses on the ground floor with only minor modifications and would see new lifts installed in the building as well as undertaking a major upgrade. The extension would be clad in metal while the planned new portion of the building would be less than the site’s maximum height limit of 22 metres.
The building is not heritage-listed but is a contributory building within the Potts Point Heritage Conservation Area. The application states that a heritage consultant will be contracted to give advice before the design is finalised.
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