It was announced yesterday (4 July) that the New South Wales Government has invited Crown Limited to move to stage three of the Unsolicited Proposal process for a six-star hotel resort including VIP gaming facilities at Barangaroo South.

Crown chairman James Packer says, “We are delighted that our Crown Sydney hotel resort has been selected by the New South Wales Government on the recommendation of the Independent Steering Committee.

“This decision follows months of hard work by Crown to develop its proposal for an iconic six-star hotel resort on Sydney Harbour at Barangaroo South.”

The design for the hotel resort was selected following a competition, with Wilkinson Eyre Architects’ design taking out the competition.

Packer says, “Sydney is one of the world’s great cities; it deserves one of the world’s great hotels. I want this building to be instantly recognisable around the world and feature on postcards and memorabilia promoting Sydney. That’s how you attract international tourist, create jobs and put Sydney on the map.”

An independent steering committee, chaired by former chair of the Future Fund David Murray AO, was appointed to assess the Crown and Star Casino owner Echo Entertainment proposals, with the assistance of Deloitte Access Economics.

Wilkinson Eyre Architects' winning design for the Crown Hotel in Barangaroo South.

The committee determined that while both proposals offer value for the state, the decisive factor was the opportunity to introduce competition into the market, which would deliver increased tourism and broader economic benefits.

Stage three of an Unsolicited Proposal involves the finalisation of all outstanding issues with a view to entering a binding agreement, if the government decides to accept the final offer.

However, the Australian institute of Architects says the stage three assessment must now be followed by a proper city making and rational planning process which is open to public consultation.

AIA New South Wales chapter president Joe Agius says, “The granting of a casino licence is an entirely separate matter from the proper planning of any major new development in the city – a process that should be rigorous and transparent, and which protects and promotes the public interest.

“Crown’s proposal was put forward with an assumption about the ready availability of public land with a design competition held before that land had even been secured for development,” Agius says.

A concerning feature of the proposed Crown design is that the distinction between public and private spaces has been blurred, he says.

Now that the preferred bidder has been selected, the AIA strongly urges the NSW Government to adopt a publicly accountable planning process for development, which it has advocated for since the proposal was first announced.

“The development of a new major facility should take into consideration all the factors relevant to any city development – height, scale, ancillary facilities and environmental and social impacts,” Agius says.

Agius believes the next step is to develop a master plan for the site, making sure the new facility is well integrated into its surroundings.

“This process needs to clearly delineate public and private spaces and engage fully with the community – only then should any designs be considered,” he says.