Debate heats up for The Star’s Ritz-Carlton Sydney

City of Sydney and Accommodation Association of Australia discuss the proposed ultra-luxe hotel

The Lord Mayor of Sydney has questioned the credibility of the state’s planning system this week as the NSW Independent Planning Commission (IPC) began hearing the case for and against by numerous parties for the proposed development of The Ritz-Carlton Sydney.

The meeting follows recent comments to the NSW IPC made by Marriott International’s VP of Marketing for Asia Pacific, Bruce Ryde, who said The Star Entertainment Group’s proposed Ritz-Carlton hotel and residence at Pyrmont “will deliver Sydney’s finest aspirational luxury experience”.

City of Sydney says…

On Tuesday [27 August, 2019], Mayor Clover Moore reiterated her stance on the luxury tower and the council’s support for the Department of Planning’s recommendation to reject the proposal.

“The casino’s proposed residential/hotel tower undermines the community’s vision for the area, and the Department’s recommendation reflects their concerns,” Moore explained.

“The recommendation also upholds the fundamental principle of the planning system – that a common agreed framework must apply to all, be developed in consultation with communities, business and developers, and be based on rigorous research, not ad hoc decisions by governments to accommodate interests of the powerful,” she said.

Moore said that “powerful vested interests” have campaigned that the Department’s assessment and the Pyrmont communities opposition “be set aside”.

The Mayor said she was anything but against hotel development, with the City approving over 5,700 hotel rooms and other visitor accommodation in the past five years. One instance being the Yuhu Tower six-star hotel at Circular Quay which is currently under construction.

“The situation with the casino is in stark contrast. The proposed luxury residential tower contains 204 apartments across 35 levels. The remaining 22 storey hotel is relatively small compared to those being built elsewhere in the city and it is the lucrative, luxury apartments that are the main driver of the casino tower’s height,” Moore said.

“Unlike other waterfront developments such as the iconic Harbour Bridge and Opera House, this proposal by a private entity – a casino – that provides little, if any, public benefit, despite being on public land.”

Moore concluded that should the Ritz-Carlton Sydney be approved the decision will “seriously undermine public faith in the planning system”.

An original concept image of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Sydney released in 2018

Accommodation Association of Australia says…

In contrast, the Independent Planning Commission also heard from the the Accommodation Association of Australia, which was as to be expected, in favour of the luxury hotel.

Dean Long, the former AFTA executive, highlighted that only 9% of hotel rooms in Sydney were in the luxury segment.

“Sydney and Melbourne in absolute terms have fewer than 4,000 luxury rooms whereas most global cities have greater than 10,000 rooms.

“Investment in luxury hotels is essential if Sydney is seeking to attract major international conferences and high spending visitation,” Long said.

He said that luxury hotel rooms are necessary to capitalise on the $1.5 billion investment in the International Convention Centre (ICC), if Sydney is to fulfil its remit as a world class business events destination.

“The proposed Ritz Carlton is therefore a much-needed addition to the Darling Harbour precinct. It will be built just 500 metres from the ICC, supporting the drive to attract more high spending visitation from international growth markets.”

Long said the 220-room Ritz-Carlton Sydney will address the city’s current shortage of luxury hotel room supply.

He also said The Star has a “sophisticated understanding” in accommodation projects, citing The Darling which won the prestigious Forbes Travel Award two years running.

“In conclusion, the Accommodation Association and the broader tourism industry welcome the development of the luxury Ritz Carlton hotel, by a reputable, sophisticated hospitality company that has made a huge investment in the visitor economy, added to the fabric of Sydney with world class facilities and provides not only employment opportunities but investment in career paths and training of its employees,” Long said.

Concurrently, the Greater Sydney Commission has today [Friday 30 August, 2019] opened up to public feedback as it reviews the planning framework for Sydney’s Western Harbour Precinct, including the Pyrmont Peninsula. Submissions will be accepted up until 5pm, 16 September 2019. For more information, click here.

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