Hotel Australasia: Developer offers olive branch

Hotel Australasia developer Rodney Thompson met with Peter Whiter on Thursday to offer an olive branch that may save the heritage facade and front 10-15 metres, or heritage section, of the 1906-built hotel.

Mr Thompson has offered to sell off the front section of the hotel for $500,000.

The offer is on the table for two weeks, with the developer wanting an exchange soon.

“We’re happy to give it one more crack,” Mr Thompson said.

“I’ve offered the front 10 or so metres basically, the heritage or older part of the hotel, including the façade, for sale to whoever wants to buy it from us.

“It’s for sale for $500,000.

“As part of that offer, they have to exchange in the next couple of weeks before we start the demolition work under the (now approved) Development Application.”

The offer came within 24 hours of last Wednesday’s approval by Bega Valley Shire Council of Great Southern Developments’ Development Application to demolish the existing building and build a third supermarket in Eden’s main street.

A long and well-supported public campaign, headed by Eden builder Whiter and heritage expert and historian Angela George, was successful in influencing councillors to reject the DA at a December 18, 2013 meeting.

The developer then took the matter to the Land and Environment Court, who held a Section 34 mediation conference on the site in July 2014.

The developer rejected the option of restoring the 1906 façade, saying the cost was prohibitive.

Mr Thompson, on behalf of himself and the second Great Southern director, John Krnc, instead offered to retain the 1950s façade for a non-negotiable $480,000 offset for any associated s94 levies relating to car parking.

This option was not agreeable to Council, who voted 5-2 in favour of approving the original DA, and demolishing the hotel.

Mr Whiter met with Mr Thompson at Oaklands in Pambula on Thursday to receive the offer.

“The whole thing lasted about 90 seconds,” Mr Whiter said.

“Rodney just said, ‘Look Peter, the offer is the original part of the building, the footprint of the 1906 building, which can be purchased for this much money'.

“He gave us two weeks to reach a decision, to whoever wants to buy it.

“After that, he’s back on the knocking it down scenario.”

Mr Whiter is now calling on the Eden community to support the purchase, and offer whatever support they can.

“I’ve spoken to some local businesspeople and councillors and at this point in time it looks pretty positive, but it’s going to need a lot of community support moving forward,” he said.

“I want to make it clear what we are talking about.

“What we are talking about is the 1906 building in its entirety.

“It’s not going to take five minutes to (restore) that, it’s not going to be started and completed within a year.

“It’s going to need some public funds and government grants.

“It’s going to need all sorts of in-kind support, a lot of public support, but we’ll have the 1906 building standing here in the main street.”

Mr Thompson said his offer was motivated by becoming part of the Eden community through the development.

“The reality is, we’re going to be a partner in the community; we want to make this work," he said.

“Now it’s time for these guys to put their money where their mouth is, and have a look at the refurbishment.”

Options for the restored front section of the 1906 hotel façade could include a tapas bar, community hub and art gallery.

Councillors Russell Fitzpatrick and Sharon Tapscott have had initial discussions with Mr Whiter.

Cr Tapscott said she is excited by the news. 

“I would be really interested in seeing a (redevelopment) proposal.

“It might suit the community well to have something like that in the middle of town.

“But it has to be viable and it has to be sustainable; there’s no point in half-doing it.

“We have to have a fully funded proposition – where will we get that funding from?

“Clearly Mr Thompson would like to involve himself in the community with this offer.

“There’s certainly a will for it in the community.

“I understand the community does not want to keep the 1952 façade.”


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