Surry Hills fire destroys family’s $38 million hotel dream

Developer Hanave Pty Ltd was behind the plans, submitted to the City of Sydney in 2019, which aimed to convert the site into a nine-story, $38 million hotel with 123 rooms, two restaurants, a bar and a cafe to convert

Architect Tim Greer, director at Tonkin Zulaikha Greer, the company that won the design competition for the complex, said the project is about to transition to construction.

Firefighters declared the fire extinguished around 1 p.m. Friday. Crews stayed on site to monitor possible outbreaks.

Firefighters declared the fire extinguished around 1 p.m. Friday. Crews stayed on site to monitor possible outbreaks.Credit: NSW Fire and Rescue

“We are all completely devastated. I found it oddly emotional,” Greer said Friday.

“The family who owned the building had a dream of turning it into a hotel. All that thinking and incredibly hard work to get it to the point where it can be handed over to the builders to work their magic.

“Everything is over. It’s just gone.”

Witness Phu Tang, who works at Hildebrandt Locksmith across the street from the buildings, said he saw three or four “high school kids” run out of the building as smoke billowed from the building.

“These kids ran hurriedly down the corner of Randle Lane and Randle Street, looked up and spoke to one of the kids who was still stuck in that building and asked why that kid was still up there,” Tang said.

“They shouted and verbally abused each other and called for the child [still in the building].”

A spokesman for the NSW Department of Education said it was working with the police on the matter.

Firefighters declared the fire extinguished around 1 p.m. Friday. Some emergency services remained to monitor possible outbreaks. They previously warned that the remaining walls of a damaged building could collapse and projectiles, including bricks, could fly through the air. A no-go zone was expected to be in place around the site of the fire, to remain in place for at least a week.

Plans for the hotel complex were submitted to the City of Sydney in 2019.

Plans for the hotel complex were submitted to the City of Sydney in 2019.

Greer said the transformation of Surry Hills’ “amazingly beautiful Victorian warehouse” into a modern hotel honored the area’s history and brought life to Randle Street.

A project description on Tonkin Zulaikha Greer’s website dubbed the development “The New Hotel” would “transform the handsome Henderson Hat production warehouse building” and act as a catalyst for “connecting and reactivating” the surrounding public spaces near Central Station .


Under the hotel proposal, the warehouse at 11-13 Randle Street would be preserved and reused, while the buildings on either side would be demolished.

Greer said, “There are three buildings on the site and from a heritage perspective, the middle building should be preserved.” The irony is that the building that burns down is the one we wanted to keep.”

Hanave’s listed owner Robert Burke could not be contacted for comment Friday. Police said they are still trying to contact the owners of the building, which has been vacant for about 12 months.

Greer said civil engineers were working to determine what needed to be done about the building to make it safe for the public and those involved in the refurbishment “cannot see past that point.”

“Who knows where we’re going from here?” he said.

A new building on Chalmers Street, housing a new east entrance to Central Station, suffered minor damage during the fire.

Water and fire protection agents entered the building on Thursday as firefighters battled the blaze about 20 meters away.

Authorities are still assessing the extent of damage to the building and new entrance.

A spokeswoman for the City of Sydney said the filing showed there were no health, building or fire safety regulations from the City Council in relation to the warehouse where the fire broke out.

“Building owners are required to provide a compliant annual fire declaration for their premises, including vacant lots.

“The fire safety plan of this building includes an automatic fire suppression system, fire alarm signaling devices, fire hydrants and fire hose reels.”

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Justin Scaccy

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