BY PAM WALKER
Bondi Beach is about to get a huge injection of retail therapy and not everybody is happy about it.
A rally against the Swiss Grand redevelopment, organised by the Swiss Grand Redevelopment Bondi Residents Action Group, drew a crowd of about 100 people on March 30.
Organiser Luke Whitington said the turnout showed opposition was growing and the community could win.
‘It’s been very heartening to see residents working together like this,’ he said. ‘We’re making it clear this oversized monster is not welcome in Bondi. It will be a monolith sitting right across from residences and turn surrounding streets into a parking lot to service this site. Just about everyone’s against it, once they see the plans and what it will do to Bondi.’
Mr Whitington urged everyone to attend the Waverley Council meeting that will vote on the proposal in late April or early May.
Developers Allen Linz and Eduard Litver ‘ the Eco Villages co-directors now in the news over the Currawong workers’ retreat at Pittwater ‘ last year redeveloped the Bondi Beachside Inn on Campbell Parade into luxury multi-million dollar apartments.
For the Swiss Grand they propose 88 serviced apartments and 98 apartments; retail on two levels, including a supermarket; footpath and courtyard dining; a Level 1 open awning dining area along Campbell Parade with corner features into Curlewis Street and Beach Road; gymnasium and spa for public use; a bar licensed for 800; night entertainment, and cross pedestrian access through the retail area. The development promises 238 full time or part time jobs.
To those who hate the idea, the proposal will be ‘too big, too tall, too bulky and too ugly’ for Bondi. It exceeds council guidelines in height ‘ the proposed highest point opposite 1 Beach Rd is 26.19 metres (the LEP 1996 specifies 15 metres in Campbell Parade and 10 metres in Beach Road). The proposed observation tower in Curlewis St is even higher at 35.39 metres. The design also exceeds the floor space ratio limit of 3:1 if the proposed 5.07:1 is adopted.
Beach Rd resident Maria Gerakiteys said the development would intrude most on the privacy of people on Beach Rd.
‘The Ravesi-style eating area will look straight into some of the bedrooms,’ she said. ‘And extended trading hours for the supermarket and the night entertainment areas will result in people coming down from the hotels and congregating on the beach.’
Mrs Gerakiteys said the redevelopment would increase retail in the area by 25 per cent and create traffic havoc around residential streets and the nearby school.
‘That will mean extra noise, extra traffic and reduced car parking, down to 67 spaces from 200 there now. There’ll be neons facing into our building and traffic and delivery trucks trying to get in to this confined area,’ she said.
But to those who love the idea, it has the potential to transform and revitalise Bondi Beach, especially in the deserted winter months. The Swiss Grand development will join Ravesi’s, the Hakoah Club redevelopment and the $30 million block next to the Bondi Hotel to create a strip of upmarket retail clustering.
Bondi Chamber of Commerce acting president Max Siano said this could help Bondi Beach look like its former self and attract people to the area.
‘We see this as an improvement to the shopping centre. If Bondi Beach offers a variety of products in all the new retail shops, it may attract locals to shop locally and not drive to Westfields,’ Mr Siano said.
‘Developers see Bondi Beach as a viable shopping centre and they’re willing to put their money where their mouth is. We want more retail in the area ‘ in winter it’s a sad look on Bondi Beach, devoid of tourists and locals. If these shops bring more people it would help businesses survive.’
Nor does he think these new retail centres would bleed the main strip of shoppers.
‘If you look at Manly, a huge shopping centre, people still walk the strip and we hope that will happen in Bondi,’ he said.
Waverley mayor Ingrid Strewe said that as a community activist she had fought for a 12.5 height limit on the site but was now happy with the 15-metre height limit.
She said the development would be assessed on its merits: ‘It’s unbelievably huge. I hear what residents are saying and we’ll be assessing this with great care.’
An external consultant will assess the DA but the mayor said she was convinced the council would be the decision-making body.