The new owners of Newcastle’s circular “roundhouse” will build a six-metre glass addition on top of the landmark building for a bar, restaurant and pool.
As predicted in a Newcastle Herald report two weeks ago, Newcastle City Council voted on Tuesday to sell its City Administration Centre to Syrian billionaire Ghassan Aboud, who plans to turn it into a five-star hotel called Kingsley.
It is understood the deal will net the council about $15.5 million before it moves staff out of the CAC to a new office in Newcastle West late next year.
Mr Aboud’s Crystalbrook Collection hotel business commissioned Barney Collins, of Newcastle firm EJE Architecture, to formulate plans to convert the nine-storey 1970s Brutalist structure.
The company expects to finalise the sale in February then submit a development application to the council for a luxury hotel with about 100 rooms, a ground-floor cafe and the new glass top.
Crystalbrook Collection chief executive officer Mark Davie, who moved from Sydney to Merewether early this year, said at a media conference with lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes on Wednesday that Mr Aboud “fell in love” with the building on a visit to Newcastle in September.
“The structure as you look at it now is not going to change vastly,” he said.
“It’s a beautiful structure, and we love it. As far as we’re concerned we can only improve upon it.”
The building has 56 underground parking places.
Mr Collins, who was studying architecture at Newcastle University when workers dug out the CAC’s basement in 1974, believed his plans were “very sensitive to the original architecture and the original architects in Romberg and Suters”.
“We think we’re accentuating the building’s architecture,” he said.
“We’re highlighting it to a higher degree than what it was, and we can do that because of its luxury take. We can add high-quality things to it.”
He said converting the building into a hotel would open it up more to the public.
The Kingsley is the fifth new hotel on the cards for Newcastle. Doma Group has started work on its 140-room Little National Hotel at Honeysuckle, and Core Project Group is building a Holiday Inn in Stewart Avenue.
The company behind the Hunter Street Mall redevelopment, Iris Capital, and Great Northern Hotel owner Bass Elhashem are both negotiating with potential boutique hotel operators for their sites.
Cr Nelmes said the Kingsley would be significant as the city’s first five-star hotel and would attract cultural tourism to the nearby art gallery, museum and Civic Theatre.
The council did not discuss the future of the Fred Ash building, which is also on the market, and Cr Nelmes said the property could go back on the market in light of interest in “adjacent buildings”.
While you’re with us, did you know The Herald is now offering breaking news alerts, daily email newsletters and more? Keep up-to-date with all the local news - sign up here.