Community drinks to demolition halt but Alexandria Hotel court battle looms

Swans fans soak up the atmosphere at the Alexandria Hotel in Sydney. Photo: Fiona MorrisFollow more Sydney news on Facebook

The Alexandria Hotel has been given a lifeline after the City of Sydney moved to stop a developer’s plan to replace the pub with apartments following community opposition.

The city received an unusually strong public response to a redevelopment plan, which had been open for comment for the last month.

The hotel had been marked for demolition.

“There’s been a very strong community campaign,” lord mayor Clover Moore said. “Around 470 submissions and comments about the development application were received by the City of Sydney.”

The City of Sydney has slapped a heritage order on the site preventing any construction for six months while it decides whether the building’s historical value should be preserved.

A “save the Alex” campaign spread on social media last month after the pub’s new owner, the publicity shy Centennial Property Group, lodged plans to build an $8 million, four-storey residential tower with 28 apartments on the site.

However, CPG has moved quickly to have its plans approved in court, where it will face a showdown with the council.

The developer has invoked a law that allows development proposals to be heard by the NSW Land and Environment Court instead of a council if they are not finalised after 40 days.

The move could be seen as a way for the developer to have the matter decided in a forum free from emotive public hearings.

CPG did not return a call from Fairfax Media on Thursday.

The question of whether the pub has heritage value is contested.

A hotel has stood on the corner of Henderson Road and Garden Street in Alexandria since the late 1870s.

The existing building was built about the late 1920s and was operated by Tooth and Co.

Documents lodged in support of the development application acknowledge the building has historical value but argue its style of architecture is relatively common and that its heritage value has been diminished by surrounding redevelopment.

However, the building is the last sign of Alexandria’s prewar industrial heritage. All the adjacent buildings were demolished in the 1940s to make way for the eastern suburbs rail line.

For the past 15 years, the pub has been leased by Darren “Harry” McAsey, a former Sydney Swans player who has forgone pokies and turned the pub into a de facto headquarters for Sydney’s Aussie Rules fans.

Mr McAsey, who continues to run the pub, declined to comment.

The pub has become a favoured spot for Swans fans to watch the team’s away games.

If the building is granted heritage protection – by the city or the court – it may still not operate as a pub. Depending on the nature of the protection granted, developers could build on the site, but might need to preserve the building.

The matter will be heard in the Land and Environment Court in coming weeks.

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