'Monstrosity': City of Sydney joins residents in rubbishing Kings Cross redevelopment

A long night at the Bourbon and Beefsteak Bar in 1999 left former Australian cricket captain Ricky Ponting with a black eye.

But a proposal to demolish the site of the Kings Cross venue along with several other buildings on Darlinghurst Road for an eight-storey apartment complex has been dealt similar punishment by the City of Sydney, which labelled aspects of the redevelopment “inadequate”, “unsatisfactory” and “undesirable”.

A notice of motion passed by the council called for a panel to provide urgent advice on design principles for the Bourbon and Beefsteak site, to monitor its progress and to address community concerns.

The motion moved by the Clover Moore Independent Team councillor Philip Thalis also delivered a withering assessment of the proposed development, which it said had “caused understandable concern among local residents and business owners”.

It also said the proposal exceeded height controls and did not fit with the heritage conservation area around Kings Cross.

The proposal lacked the “graciousness” of the ground floor lobbies found in the area, while its large retail spaces would destroy the “fine-grain retail pattern that exists along Darlinghurst Road”.

Lord mayor Clover Moore said the development application, which attracted more than 500 submissions, had been referred to the council’s design panel because of its significant location and the “high level of understandable community concern”.

“The Design Advisory Panel has recommended a suite of actions for the site, including urgently commissioning an urban design strategy to achieve better results within the current controls for the site,” Cr Moore said.

“This is a faster, more efficient way to resolve the issues the community has raised about this application.”

Independent member for Sydney Alex Greenwich has expressed his opposition to the redevelopment, while almost 12,000 people have signed a change.org petition, which describes the proposed development as a “generic, architecturally unimaginative block” and “monstrosity”.

The motion for the study was passed as an alternative to Liberal councillor Christine Forster’s proposal to create a Kings Cross masterplan to guide future redevelopment of the area.

Ms Forster’s unsuccessful motion noted the negative impact of the NSW government’s 2014 lockout laws and Kings Cross’ transition from “a late night entertainment hub to a residential hot spot”.

But a spokesman for Cr Moore said the council had offered grants to support live music venues and was reviewing planning controls “to ensure they are enabling late-night activity in the right places”.

Four buildings along Darlinghurst Road, including the historic former Bourbon and Beefsteak and the building that housed Les Girls, would be demolished as part of the $47.5 million redevelopment.

The Bourbon façade would be retained as part of a building of up to eight storeys housing 83 apartments, with basement parking for 100 cars and cafés, restaurants, shops and bars at street-level.

The Statement of Environmental Effects prepared by SJB Planning said the redevelopment would have a positive social impact by increasing the supply of housing as well as additional retail premises.

It also claims the redevelopment will discourage anti-social behaviour: “[The] orientation of dwellings, balconies and courtyards overlooking Barncleuth Lane allows for greater informal surveillance of the public domain.

“Increased activation and surveillance along streets assists in discouraging and reducing opportunities for anti-social behaviour.”

Developer Sam Arnaout, the chief executive of IRIS Capital, told the Herald in December that the proposed redevelopment would improve an area that had long been “decaying”.

“Of course, some people will hate the idea of it but others will love the fact we’ll be renewing an area that’s already in a state of transition,” he said.

Depending on the final value of the project, the DA will be decided by the new local planning panel or the Central Sydney Planning Committee, which determines applications for major developments with an estimated cost of more than $50 million.


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