New hotel in Darling Harbour convention centre to be Sydney’s largest

Investor Dr Jerry Schwartz is pictured with his son Dane aged 4. Photo: Jerry Schwartz Investor Dr Jerry Schwartz is pictured with his son Dane aged 4. Photo: Jerry Schwartz
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Foundations are laid for the Sofitel Hotel project in Darling Harbour. Photo: Peter Rae

Investor Dr Jerry Schwartz is pictured with his son Dane aged 4. Photo: Jerry Schwartz

Investor Dr Jerry Schwartz is pictured with his son Dane aged 4. Photo: Jerry Schwartz

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It’s a race between two tycoons across a one-kilometre stretch of Sydney Harbour for the title of owner of Sydney’s grandest hotel.

Eccentric cosmetic surgery-cum-hotel king Jerry Schwartz may have stolen a march on James Packer on Thursday as he made a show of laying the foundation stone of a new $350 million hotel development.

Mr Schwartz was promising a cracking pace. “We’ll be [erecting] one floor every 10 days,” he said.

The project will be Sydney’s first newly built five-star hotel in nearly two decades and is part of the broader $3.5 billion redevelopment of the Darling Harbour convention centre precinct.

The 600-room, 35-storey tower is being billed as Sydney’s largest.

It can hold that title without contest so long as James Packer’s $2-billion hotel and apartment complex winds its way through a complicated planning process. Mr Packer’s plans allow for only 350 rooms but promises “six star” luxury and more than twice the floors.

The Barangaroo south development is fighting its way  through complicated planning and legal battles, including a dispute between developer Lend Lease and the state government.

The $2 billion plan is yet to secure major government approvals but Crown Resorts is attempting to push ahead with laying the project groundwork.

Should the project be knocked back, the company will be left holding a costly bill for early earth moving and foundation work, plans for which are on display until the end of next month.

Mr Schwartz says his hotel’s proximity to the convention centre will give him an edge with business guests, who have previously had to make do with the three-and-a-half star Ibis on Darling Harbour.

In addition to a ballroom Mr Schwartz is hoping a helipad will be an extra lure for business travellers.

“It’s something no one in their right minds would object to,” he said. “It’s 35 storeys high, who’s going to complain, the neighbours?”

(A 2012 proposal for a nearby floating heliport on Darling Harbour was shot down amid outcry over fears plans were approved without due concern for noise pollution).

The government is yet to be presented with an application for the helipad.

LED lights will be built into the hotel’s framework. “We’ll be able to write things on the building – like ‘Happy [New Year] 2018’,” he said.

The hotel will be complete in the latter half of 2017.

Under an arrangement with construction firm Lend Lease, Mr Schwartz will buy the building after it is complete and subcontract its operation to Sofitel and Accor.

Lend Lease also has the contract for developing the convention centre and Barangaroo south.

Tourism Minister Stuart Ayres said the development was proof Sydney “was a city that belongs on the world stage”.

The hotel has been granted a 99-year lease as part of the public-private partnership designed to reinvigorate Darling Harbour.

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