PhilipMarch 15, 2008
The Hilton vanishes?
The potential Hilton hotel has had the appeals against its consent upheld, signalling what is likely to be the end of the controversial waterfront proposal. Having started the applications process back in later 2005, the news seems like it will be a decisive blow to the project; although an appeal is possible, it must go through the High Court.
The presiding judge cited all the usual issues with the project, such as public space, lines of sight and heritage concerns among others. Plenty has been written about the project previously, and its associated drawbacks and benefits. Despite the changes that were made to throughout the application process, it seems that this decision was ultimately a judgement of not-quite-good-enough . Although the design is of a decent quality, and the hotel would bring many economic benefits, my hope is that the decision was made with the intent of preserving the site for an even higher quality project, rather than following a general distaste for commercial waterfront developments.
Looking to the future, the rejection of this plan does again open up the potential of the site. Occupying a prime position amongst the new developments, the T area brief originally called for an “iconic” building (naturally using the precedent of the Sydney Opera house). Not to say that the Hilton was necessarily unattractive, but the design was hardly inspiring.
However the rejection of the Hilton is likely to make future developers more cautious, particularly of Hotel proposals. Again, the question of programme is raised – what type of building is suitable for such a prime location? Surely, simple apartments or office spaces are a waste. It would be nice to see some form of major public function there, such as the Marine Education Centre or a salt water swimming pool, but I doubt these would be commercially viable for the site on their own. We may see something more eco-oriented though, in light of the judge giving heavy weight to the “sustainable use of natural and physical resources” considerations.
So, it seems that we are back to square one. This decision raised the bar for the site, which will hopefully lead to a better proposal, rather than acting to scare away future developers.