Boutique hotel planned for west Crown Street site

Contentious site: The eight-storey hotel would take the place of Meni Cafe, opposite Wollongong hospital. Image digitally altered: photo by Adam McLean, artist's impression by ADG Architects.

Contentious site: The eight-storey hotel would take the place of Meni Cafe, opposite Wollongong hospital. Image digitally altered: photo by Adam McLean, artist's impression by ADG Architects.

A businessman known for raising legal complaints against Wollongong City Council and its infamous Table of Knowledge scandal has revived long-held plans to build a multi-storey hotel on west Crown Street.

Wollongong lawyer Amir Harb has recently submitted a new proposal to build the “Fire and Ice Boutique Hotel” at 385A Crown Street, the site diagonally opposite Wollongong Hospital and currently home to Meni Cafe.

Information lodged with the council by Mr Harb says the proposed hotel would have 45 self-contained studio rooms, within 23 “dual key” apartments, as well as a rooftop garden, pool and gym.

The hotel would be designed to attract “a select breed” of guests to the medical precinct, Mr Harb said.

“Despite the emergence of many new bars and restaurants in what is becoming a ‘hip’ city, the emerging city of innovation is lacking in new boutique hotels,” he said.

“Wollongong’s mainly ‘business like’ tourist accommodation in the CBD have fared well in terms of occupancy rates compared to other cities. However, there have been no new hotels in the Wollongong CBD since 2010.”

According to DA documents, international chain Ramada Hotel Group “expressed great interest in the precinct and the proposal”.

However, the plans also say “it is anticipated that sometime in the future these hotel rooms will be strata titled and sold to investors, who then receive a return through rental income from tourists and visitors”. 

The application advised the Meni Cafe operator wishes to remain at the site in the new building’s ground floor commercial tenancy.

Mr Harb has been trying to develop the Crown Street block for about 15 years. In 2005, he took the council to the Land and Environment Court, after it repeatedly denied his 2002 application for a six-storey block.

His appeal against the council's refusal was eventually upheld in the court, which approved amended plans for a five-level building.

Since this decision, the development has been revised a number of times, with plans for a seven-storey building with 30 hotel rooms approved in May 2008. This consent has lapsed.

Mr Harb and his Legal Business Centre Pty Limited have been in court with the council a number of other times in recent years.

Most recently, the businessman lodged fresh action in the Supreme Court last year, in an attempt to revisit aspects of the city’s infamous ‘‘Table of Knowledge’’ scandal.

He told Fairfax Media his development application for the western Crown Street site was treated unfairly and penalised by the council because he was not one of the ‘‘inner circle’’ developers getting favourable treatment from council officials.

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