News

Red Carnation bids for historic Sydney building

The Travel Corporation has rekindled hopes of bringing Red Carnation hotels to Australia after lodging a bid to buy a heritage-listed building in Sydney’s CBD, Travel Today can reveal.

The company has formally expressed its interest in The Department of Lands building in Bridge Street which, along with the nearby Department of Education building, has been put up for sale by the NSW Government.

Future use of the historic buildings, part of the city’s Sandstone Precinct, has been set aside by the government for tourism purposes.

The Travel Corporation is one of several companies to have expressed its interest in the Lands property, which could fetch as much as $80 million.

The Travel Corporation president and chief executive, Brett Tollman, confirmed to Travel Today he has submitted a “registration of interest”, with the company initially asked by the government to provide information on “background skills and experiences”.

The next stage will see the government sift through the applications before inviting selected bidders to submit more detailed plans, probably by the middle of the year.

“It’s very exciting because we all know Sydney could use some more hotel inventory, particularly at the higher end,” Tollman told Travel Today.

If successful, he said the colonial-era Lands building would be transformed into a boutique luxury 100-room Red Carnation hotel, and predicted an opening date of late 2016.

“It won’t be cheap, but we are hopeful, absolutely,” Tollman said. “We’ve lobbied and worked hard at it and we have a great footprint here in Australia. But obviously it’s not our decision.

“In the middle of the year the government will come back and say to bidders you can move to the next stage. They will give us more information and we’ll have to put out a more detailed spec. But until that happens there is no point in us investing in architectural plans, quotes and so forth.

“We’ll give it our best shot.”

The renewed prospect of Red Carnation opening in Australia comes just four months after Tollman virtually ruled out a local venture after the Sandstone Precinct sale went quiet and the mining slowdown in Perth made a hotel in WA not viable.

“The NSW government took a while to get their proposals together but it’s fantastic to see [it happening],” Tollman said.

The three-storey Department of Lands building was developed in the Italian Renaissance Revival style and was once Sydney's largest structure. It was designed by colonial architect James Barnet and completed in the late 19th century.


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