THE multi-million dollar refurbishment and restoration of Newcastle’s iconic Great Northern Hotel may be about to blow a fuse after plans to build a substation below floor level were ruled out.
The $10 million development was $2 million in when in November 2016 electrical engineers inspected the site and informed the developer the space, although large, could not be used to house a substation because it could not be made to comply with the building code of Australia and Ausgrid’s requirements.
The hotel is subject to a state heritage listing which greatly restricts work which can be carried out in order to preserve its heritage value and character.
Former owner of the hotel and current project manager Kurt Braune said they had not anticipated the problem.
“We should have,” Mr Braune said, “We just didn’t know it was going to be an issue.”
Braune claims the trouble began after the 1989 earthquake after which the upper levels of the hotel were closed. Over subsequent years power resources have been allocated to new developments in the eastern end of the CBD.
In order to power the upper floors and the upgrades the hotel will have to build its own substation.
In 2014 the Peniche Apartments in Hunter Street faced similar issues which added $400,000 to the cost of the apartment building development.
Mr Braune said The Great Northern Hotel was an existing multi-storey building and ‘lack of consideration’ was behind the allocation of power the hotel once used for use in new developments.
“It might be a worthwhile item for a future agenda that council consider these issues before approving new developments,” Mr Braune said.
The developer is now hoping Newcastle City Council will permit them to build a substation in Enterprise Park across the road. However, authority over the park lies with Crown Lands. If permission is granted by Crown Lands the final decision will return to council.
Mr Braune said the hotel needed the council’s help.
“The only authority that can add weight to our case is Newcastle City Council and the ultimate approval lies with them,” Mr Braune said.
A lease agreement has been signed with Sydney based restaurateurs which will see the front bar and a bistro open after Easter 2017.
“The company runs the ArtHouse Hotel in Sydney,” Mr Braune said. “The chap behind that is Ben McBeath, his wife is a Novocastrian, I’m told.”
They also plan to open a roof top restaurant which Mr Braune said will be “the venue with the best view” when the restoration is complete, expected to be in 2018.