Five-star hotel: up, up or away?

Anticipated view of a hotel proposed for Moray Pl, in Dunedin. Image: Paterson Pitts Group.
Anticipated view of a hotel proposed for Moray Pl, in Dunedin. Image: ODT files
The battle lines are well and truly drawn in the latest bid for a five-star hotel in Dunedin.

And, with the resource consent lodged, the public notified and submissions opened, the only thing that seems certain is the project will dominate the news for some time.

Anthony Tosswill is the Tekapo businessman behind the estimated $75million project. Its second incarnation, designed by Christchurch-based architect Thom Craig, is a proposal for a 17-storey building featuring three glass towers around a central core. It would be sited on land owned by Dunedin City Council at the corner of Moray Pl and Filleul St, opposite the Dunedin Town Hall. It would contain 210 hotel rooms, 64 apartments, four penthouse suites, and licensed premises, retail, conference and meeting spaces, and a hot pool and spa complex.

The design is substantially different to the proposal submitted by the previous architect, Dunedin-based Ken Taylor. Although it is the same project, in many ways it is ``Mark 3'', given the two designs came on the heels of a separate waterfront hotel proposal.

So will it be a case of third time lucky?

It certainly will not be plain sailing. The opinions are polarising and becoming personal. There is vehement opposition on one side, from heritage advocates and others concerned with the visual elements (design and height) and associated impacts. On the other side come urgent appeals to support the project in the interests of economic development. It is impossible to know where the less vocal majority sit.

Some of the language being used is emotive. Proponents imply anyone not in favour is anti-progress or unpatriotic. Detractors have labelled the new design ``appalling'', ``crass'' and ``ugly''. The debate is certainly not pretty. Mr Tosswill's apparent reluctance to be swayed on the design or height of the hotel has also raised hackles.

It is clearly difficult to put emotions aside, yet that seems necessary (and will certainly be essential for the independent commissioners considering the application and then the councillors considering their recommendation).

It should be noted significantly more effort has been made by Mr Tosswill than those behind the previous waterfront proposal. The plan includes various public spaces and amenities, plans to tackle traffic issues, and significant information has been provided to the council with the application.

There is anger from some quarters at what seems the sheer audacity of the proposed height (17 storeys and 64m high) under the current district plan limit of 11m and the proposed second generation plan of 16m. Again, of note is the fact that while a building must comply with the district plan for it to be build as of right, developers are also well within their rights to propose something that is non permitted as of right but is then subject to the resource consents process. Mr Tosswill also requested public notification of the project before it was necessary.

There have clearly been efforts to include the public and to be transparent and Mr Tosswill is right: community buy-in is essential. Negotiation of sorts will also be necessary if there is an appeal to the Environment Court, for example. But there may well be a bottom line for Mr Tosswill. Do the numbers really only stack up with 17 storeys, however? Is the hotel really only viable with the apartments as part of the mix?

There are already tall buildings in the area. If the other boxes can be ticked, it may come down to the design. Surely then no-one will envy the impossible job of the commissioners and the council. How on earth can such a decision be made when beauty is in the eye of the beholder?



The Anticipated View is expected to obstruct the extant view, already. An interesting model, however: will the entrance recess and taper up, like a flue, or an Eiffel Tour?





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