An artist's impression of 'Boheme' on Hall St, Bondi Beach

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OPINION

With construction almost complete, Paul Paech casts an eye over Hall St’s ‘Boheme Bondi Beach’ development.

There are four parts to the project:

1) The floating tower of 45 luxury apartments was designed, according to the architects, to echo Bondi’s art deco heritage. But local art deco lover, Judith Hill argued there is nothing art deco about it. “It’s a great big blob,” she said.

Andy Solo, a blogger from atbondi.com disagreed. “I love the top levels with the curves and green glass façade,” he said.

All but four of the flats have been sold, mostly to owner-occupiers, according to the developers. These are literally million-dollar views, but “those look-at-me flats are going to be mighty uncomfortable when the breezes pick up,” said one long-term local.

2) Shops and restaurants will open in stages from late October. The two-level arcade is a welcome semi-public area, and the sunny cavern should be welcoming in winter. Toga, the developer, confirms that there’ll be a Harris Farm, a fresh coffee roaster, a gelato shop, Italian food shops, and a mix of Italian and Asian restaurants. While residents welcome these new retail choices, late-night noise from diners at the large restaurants may turn out to be less welcome, with one restaurant already trying to extend its 11pm closing hours to midnight.

3) Behind the pastel-coloured street-front panels lies the new Adina Hotel, with 111 self-catering units reached through labyrinthine corridors. These are cheery self-catering units, but at $200-a-night minimum, you couldn’t call them cheap. “Bondi can do with additional visitor accommodation,” said Ms Hill. Already they’re proving popular with tourists and others.

4) Below the building, a massive four-level car park has been carved out of the sandstone. There’s almost 140 car spaces for the retail and restaurants alone. It will be used 24 hours a day, so expect big increases in traffic along O’Brien and Roscoe Streets, and on Old South Head Rd which is already chokkers. There are likely to be changes to local traffic flows too.

Boheme is the first large development to break out of the Campbell Pde zone since the Beach Road Hotel expansion was approved in the 1960s – with consequences that police and residents have been battling with ever since.

Hall St’s Boheme could certainly have been much worse: it could have been taller, for starters.

But it should have been a lot better.

What the developer calls the “chic façade of pastel masonry panels” on Hall St is universally disliked, and the traffic problems generated by the parking capacity will plague local streets for years.

Perhaps the biggest negative is that Bondi lost the irreplaceable social capital of the Jewish Hakoah Club which had enhanced Bondi’s diversity since 1974.

The development also cost three blocks of low rent flats, forcing many long-term residents out of their homes and out of the area.

To its credit, Waverley Council was reluctant to accept this proposal: too big, it had said.

So Toga simply marched off to the State Government, where planning minister Tony Kelly was happy to give it the go-ahead.

An ICAC investigation into the NSW Government revealed Mr Kelly to be involved in corruption.

At the same time as Boheme sells Bondi as “a community melting pot and meeting place”, projects like this one reduce variety and damage community continuity here.

Some people shrug and say it’s “hello new Bondi, goodbye old timers” and “if you don’t like it, move out”, but rapid and radical change here is shaping the qualities of Bondi.

Whenever urban planning fails to manage large-scale property development (leaving it to “market forces”), bad buildings just sit there causing problems for generations.

Bondi needs to place a significantly higher value on the public areas like the beach, the park, streets and footpaths.

And Waverley needs to more aggressively control the damaging impact that commercial operations have on Bondi’s residential soul.

By Paul Paech