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The assessment came from Ken Harris, of THC Group in Christchurch, who spoke for the development of a five-star hotel in Moray Pl, opposite the Dunedin Town Hall, at a consent hearing yesterday.
Mr Harris was among seven consultants assembled by Tekapo businessman Anthony Tosswill as part of Mr Tosswill and lawyer Phil Page’s presentation of the case for the hotel and apartment development yesterday.
Mr Harris’ resume includes nearly 40 years’ experience in the hotel industry, here and overseas, including hotel development and investment roles.
Yesterday, he told the hearing he had been considering a hotel development in Dunedin for five years, while working as New Zealand regional manager of Australasian hotel chain Mantra Group.
The right opportunity never materialised, until he founded his own hotel management company last year and began working with Mr Tosswill.
Now he was confident the development would work for Dunedin — but only if the city’s first five-star hotel ticked all the boxes, including building up.
The developers were in talks with two five-star brands about the Dunedin project, but they had to be confident of success.
They were very particular about location, service delivery and viability, and not prepared to compromise their "very strict" brand standards, he said.
For Dunedin’s development to work, the prerequisite was 180 rooms "at a pinch", but preferably 200 or more, he said.
The hotel’s success would be based on its occupancy, but also the average room rate it could charge, and the latter was driven by location, guest experience, quality and views, he said.
That made a tower development ‘‘extremely important’’ to maximise views and drive up room rates, boosting the project’s viability, he said.
The inclusion of apartments for sale was also an increasingly popular part of hotel developments, as it gave the opportunity to pay down debt, he said.
Those features were essential for the hotel to succeed, but demand was already high for such a facility, he said.
The project would also boost the city’s event and conference facilities, generating jobs and lifting the room rates other operators could charge, he said. Mr Page, in opening arguments yesterday, said criticism by some submitters the development amounted to a take-it-or-leave-it offer for the city was unfair.
Mr Tosswill’s team had earlier rejected a recommendation by independent planner Nigel Bryce, who suggested consent be declined unless the building was reduced from 17 storeys to 13.
Mr Page said Mr Tosswill had been "fastidious" in working with the council to refine the design.
Chris Wilkinson, a retail strategist with First Retail Group, said the "bold" project could also boost spending in the city and help revitalise a ‘‘vulnerable’’ part of George St.
However, Mr Tosswill’s team was challenged by the panel hearing the application.
Independent commissioner Stephen Daysh, of Napier, repeatedly questioned the lack of hard data on the touted economic benefits associated with the development.
The information was needed to weigh against submitters’ concerns about shading, visual dominance and loss of views, but the panel had been given only "vibe stuff", he said.
Panel chairman Andrew Noone later told Mr Page the need for such information was something "you may want to think about" before the end of the hearing.
Mr Tosswill’s team is expected to wrap up its application today, before the first of about 60 submitters who want to speak at the hearing have their say.
• 17-storey building, including three below ground
• 210 hotel rooms
• 64 apartments
• Four penthouse suites
• Hot pool and spa complex
• Retail and range of other facilities