The Thomas family’s landmark Premier Hotel is battling to get approval for a ground-up overhaul that would see a major mixed-use development on the prominent Nineways intersection at Broadmeadow.

An application lodged with City of Newcastle proposed a $34 million plan to demolish the existing structure and build an eight-storey tower containing 48 apartments, 16 hotel rooms, underground parking, a rooftop rotunda, retail and a new-look pub at street level.

Originally built in 1891, the Premier was rebuilt in the 1930s in the popular Art Deco style. This structure had to be substantially repaired after the 1989 earthquake in Newcastle; it’s reconstruction now is in part due to the poor quality of that work.

The new pub would have floor area of 786sqm, with sports bar, kitchen and bistro, gaming room and beer garden. This is significantly more than the site’s allowed FSR (Floor Space Ratio), and the proposed structure would reach 30 metres tall at its highest point, which is far more than the 11-metre permissible height limit.

Design of the new building aims to be a contemporary echo of historic Art Deco constructions, such as the Sydney Dental Hospital.

Proximate to Broadmeadow train station, the city’s racecourse and Entertainment Centre, Hunter Stadium and the NSW Government’s proposed Hunter Park sports and leisure precinct, the plans offer that it will restore the prominence of the corner and provide an “iconic legacy” for Broadmeadow.

This DA is another in many multi-storey residential redevelopments on the stretch of Brunker Road from Broadmeadow to Adamstown. This strip has ushered in 500 apartments in the past decade, and the Premier project follows two more apartment proposals on Brunker Road lodged with council in the past few months.

The Premier was formerly owned by Rolly De With and partners, before Thomas Hotels took the deeds in 2018. In 2020 Chris Thomas went on to buy a neighbouring commercial property, which has been incorporated into the development.

The DA attracted 11 submissions, voicing concerns over its size and styling, potential for noise, shadowing and parking issues. Further, City of Newcastle recommended knocking it back due to its height and mass.

Its projected cost meant plans were to be assessed by the Hunter Central Coast Regional Planning Panel (HCCRPP) – which did reject it, on the basis it was too tall and not in character with the neighbourhood.

It was also suggested by the panel that a DA on the site was “premature” as it will become part of a strategic planning program in the area, and policy framework variations such as this undermined both existing controls and future planning.

But the Property Council has come out in criticism of the HCCRPP, suggesting it sends the wrong message to developers during a housing crisis.

The Minns government has adopted its Transit Oriented Development Program strategy to boost housing density around train stations, and Anita Hugo, director of the Property Council in the Hunter, believes the Premier is a “perfect example” of doing this.

She suggests planning authorities should not reject redevelopments such as at the Premier while the new strategy was being developed, and should instead be “getting on with the job” of accelerating housing supply.

An appeal of the HCCRPP decision has now been lodged with the Land & Environment Court.

Thomas Hotels holds a suite of 20 pubs in NSW. Chris Thomas declined to comment on the matter at this stage.

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