‘More activity’ soon at old hotel site

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Prime spot...the Bay Hill site of the former Hydro Grand Hotel has now been empty for nearly 12 months. PHOTO: CHRIS TOBIN

by Chris Tobin

Nearly 12 months since the former Hydro Grand Hotel was demolished, the site is empty and growing weeds but developer-owner Allan Booth, of Bayhill Development Ltd, says preliminary designs are almost complete.

“There will be more activity on the site, hopefully in the next couple of months.

“People will notice; it has been ongoing and a few changes have been made.”

Mr Booth would not elaborate on the nature of the design or plan changes.

Eight months ago, Mr Booth told a Timaru Grey Power meeting that a hotel which had been planned as part of a $42million development on the site had been placed on hold as it did not make economic sense to build a hotel at that stage.

He also said at the time final plans for offices and apartments as part of the development would soon be revealed.

Timaru Civic Trust chairman David McBride was disappointed.

“Timaru lost the most iconic building on the east coast of the South Island and the future is now uncertain,” he said.

The trust did everything possible to prevent this situation happening, Mr McBride said.

“But they strayed from conditions that the building could not be demolished without consultation with affected parties, with the result there is no guarantee on what might happen on the site.”

Independent commissioner Allan Cubitt, in Dunedin, said when considering the application to demolish the building and replace it with a mixed-use complex to include retail, food and beverage, office, hotel and residential apartments, it was important some certainty on the replacement of the building was retained.

He recognised a concern raised by the South Canterbury Historical Society that once the building was demolished redevelopment might not take place, for whatever reason.

“I consider that it is appropriate that the existing building not be demolished until such time as building consent is issued for the replacement buildings.”

However, Mr Cubitt eventually agreed to vary the terms of the resource consent to allow demolition to proceed earlier than expected, after the fire service said the building was so unsafe it would not enter it in the event of a fire.

Timaru Mayor Damon Odey said he welcomed any news of the development proceeding.

“I and the community are all looking forward to the site being used to its full potential.”

Mr Booth bought the former Hydro Grand Hotel and sites next to it in 2013 for an undisclosed sum.

Mr Cubitt stated in his resource consent decision that consent holders could apply to change the conditions of their consent, or for a new consent for a less appealing building, “for example, a large single-storey big-box retail,” if they wished.

“While there is full discretion to consider new buildings the permissive nature of this zone coupled with the lack of design guidance in the district plan can make it difficult to get a good design outcome.”