‘It’s not your average apartment building’
NEW redevelopment plans for the historic Royal George Hotel have dropped with East Fremantle council.
Saracen Properties lodged a development application last week covering the restoration of the heritage-listed hotel as well as a striking 23-apartment complex in the car park designed by Fremantle architect Michael Patroni.
Saracen director Joel Saraceni told the Herald he did a double-take when he first saw Mr Patroni’s design, but along with the rest of his staff he rapidly came to love it when he discovered how the architect had woven together themes and elements from the hotel and surrounding homes.
“It’s not your typical apartment building,” Mr Saraceni said.
The apartments come in two wings to sync with the layout of the Royal George; one of four storeys fronts Duke Street, while a nine-storey element will overlook Stirling Highway.
“The design concept is based on an extension of the two wings of the existing building, which are brought together in a dramatic point at the northern end of the sharply triangular site,” he said.
They are predominantly clad in zinc, a reference to the hotel’s cupola and many of Plympton ward’s roofs, while the design features different angles and facets.
“It’s a really dynamic design and there’s a limestone base to reference the older building,” Mr Saraceni said.
The restoration of the historic hotel is already well underway, with plans to turn the ground floor facing Duke and George Streets into a restaurant. It will have an outdoor eating area that helps bridge the age gap between the old and new sections of the development, while the cavernous spaces below seem tailor-made for the wine/spirit bar and micro brewery Saracen have planned.
Mr Saraceni said the floor above the restaurant will become a boutique hotel, although they’ll have to take out some wall space to make the tiny rooms suitable for today’s market.
He said restoring the building had been a voyage of discovery; to get replacement shingles for the cupola they had to do a chemical analysis to find out exactly what they were made from, then track down the original manufacturer’s data sheets to provide them to a manufacturer who could then reproduce them.
“It was the same with the decorative elements, as many of them were just too deteriorated to restore, so we had to go to a manufacturer from France who is still using the same techniques to make them as they were 100 years ago,” Mr Saraceni said.
The restoration will take about 18 months, and then he’s hoping the fit-out for the hospitality businesses that will operate from the hotel will be finished about the same time as the apartment complex.
Mr Saraceni said a unique design such as Mr Patroni’s was a bit of a risk for a developer as he needs to sell the apartments before he can start building, but he’s confident people will be keen to get a foot into a building he hopes will be a new heritage gem in 100 years’ time.