By Michael Hitch
After a decade in the wilderness, the Ritz-Carlton brand is returning to Sydney.
The Star Entertainment group has lodged a development application with the NSW Department of Planning to build a 237-meter high hotel in Pyrmont.
The hotel, which will be an addition to The Star Casino, will have 220 hotel rooms, 200 apartments, a ‘neighbourhood centre’, a six-star rating and a height of 61 storeys.
In a press release from August, The Star promised the $500 million Ritz-Carlton hotel will be community focussed, with event spaces and 15 food outlets.
However, local community members have expressed concerns the development could decrease the quality of living in Pyrmont by encouraging further urban density.
Pyrmont resident Marcus Madigan said the hotel wouldn’t be used by the Pyrmont community, and existing issues with traffic and parking would only get worse.
“No one goes to the casino already, it’s not for the residents, the restaurants aren’t priced for residents.
“They’re priced for tourists and people doing the ‘one-off’ thing you know,” Mr Madigan said.
In a community consultation report, The Star claimed it had addressed the issues of traffic, parking and height following meetings and feedback from Pyrmont residents early in the development process.
The report outlines plans to provide new carpark entries on Pyrmont Street and new taxi entries for the Casino’s Jones Bay Road Porte-Cochere, as well as an update to the Pyrmont Parking Guidance System in order to distribute and reduce the circulation of traffic.
Mr Madigan responded “[Parking] is like musical chairs…once the music stops, you can’t get a chair.
“Their [Star Entertainment Group’s] defence is gonna be that they’ve got a 2 billion spot carpark and it doesn’t matter if people can use it or not, they’ve still got the carpark there and they can defend that.”
Representatives of the Star group said fears of ‘overshadowing’ due to the height of the tower were unfounded, saying the location was chosen specifically to minimise shading on neighbouring properties, and to share both views and access to the sun with the residents.
The construction of the hotel will take approximately three and a half years once all necessary development applications have been approved, and will create 1000 construction jobs throughout the build, and an additional 500 jobs once operational.
The hotel is expected to be located at the northern end of The Star’s Pyrmont casino complex and will offer other amenities including a Sky Terrace, three pools including two with harbour views, a spa/wellness centre and two gymnasiums.
CEO of the Star group, Matt Bekier, said in a press release that the development would benefit the Australian tourism sector generally, but also the Pyrmont community.
“Forecasts suggest Australia’s current visitation of around 8.3 million international visitors per annum will rise to 15 million a year inside a decade,” he said.
“To cater for that demand, we need the necessary tourism infrastructure.
“Sydney lacks sufficient high-end hotels to meet this wave of international tourist demand, led by the rapidly expanding wealthy Chinese middle-class demographic.
“Bringing a world-renowned brand like The Ritz-Carlton to The Star Sydney will further embed our reputation as a tourism and entertainment destination of global appeal,” Mr Bekier said.
The Star executive claimed the Pyrmont community was consulted throughout the process and noted the development includes plans for a 5 level ‘neighbourhood centre’ which will include a rooftop terrace, a social enterprise café and a ‘collaboration hub’.
“As a company, we take pride in fostering and supporting the communities in which we operate,” Mr Bekier said.
“From the outset of this planning process more than two years ago we have engaged the Pyrmont community and kept the wider precinct updated…we have run community consultation sessions, took our community’s feedback seriously, and altered our designs accordingly prior to lodging these plans and entering a public exhibition period.”
Pyrmont resident and CTC tobacco shop worker, Shani Shah welcomed the development saying that choice of location was a compliment to Pyrmont and that increased tourist numbers in the area would be a boost to his business.
“I don’t think its ultimately bad for Pyrmont, you could say it’s a basic gesture to Pyrmont people that you have something different from the similar areas,” he said.
“Pyrmont and Darling Harbour especially are specific tourist spots and if they build something like this [the hotel] it will grab a lot of crowds.
Mr Shah also said he appreciated that the community had been consulted and informed throughout the early stages of the process.
“Yeah, they told us about it before…I got a brochure back in time, they [Star Casino] sent it to all the local business places saying to come and join them in a meeting about them getting bigger,” he said.
Mr Madigan said he believes the hotel is completely unnecessary and will eventually become known as a Pyrmont eyesore.
The Star will partner with Far East Consortium and Hong Kong-based Chow Tai Fook to build the hotel, which will be designed by FJMT architects, led by Richard Francis-Jones.