SARACEN PROPERTIES says it’s planning a complete restoration of the Royal George Hotel in East Fremantle, but to make that viable it will need to build an 18-storey apartment tower at the rear of the historic building.
The developer released plans for the site this week, which include opening up the George’s cavernous cellars for public access for the first time in the building’s history. They’ll be a distillery or winery overlooked by tasting and conference rooms.
The entrance on the corner of George and Duke Streets will open to a restaurant spilling out to an alfresco area on the landing, while rooms upstairs are likely to become short stay accommodation or function rooms.
Saracen executive director Jason Potalivo says some internal walls will have to go in order to make the rooms useable, but other than the hotel will be brought back to its former glory.
Mr Potalivo said Saracen is also negotiating with East Fremantle council to turn the ugly walkway under Stirling Highway into a usable community space.
“This will involve redesigning access to the underpass and landscaping to provide a welcoming community space and attractive end to George Street.”
But Mr Potalivo says the only way to make this work and keep the building open to the public is if they can build about 40 apartments at the rear.
Given the George takes up almost half of the site and the remainder is a wedge-shape, that gave Fremantle architect Michael Patroni plenty to think about.
His solution was to create a podium level that follows the hotel’s roofline down Duke Street, with the “slender” 18-storey elliptical tower set back.
Mr Patroni said the tower will be covered by a series of fins that stop it looking like a bunch of windows; “a bit like Malmo” he says of Sweden’s famous Turning Torso building.
To deal with parking issues, the tower would be serviced by Freo’s first two car stackers, which will be pushed against Stirling Highway to help buffer noise. They’ll be glass covered so drivers along the highway will be able to see the cars going up and down.
“A sort of tribute to the car,” Mr Patroni laughs.
Mr Potalivo says they’re also negotiating with the council and Main Roads about areas in town where parking can be increased, conscious that local businesses are concerned that an empty bay in George Street is already hard to find on busy days.
He says the council is also nervous about community reaction to the proposal, but has agreed to hold off on pushing through height limits via a town planning scheme change until Saracen has completed consultation.
by STEVE GRANT