The City of Sydney has vowed to protect the character of one of Sydney’s most renowned streets, Darlinghurst Road in Kings Cross.

The City is currently waiting on approval for the heritage listing of three sites: the facade of the Bourbon, the Kingsley Hall building and the site of the Empire Hotel.

In particular, the site of the Empire Hotel has been listed for its social significance as the former Les Girls nightclub. Planning controls will allow the replacement of the building, provided its history is interpreted.

“Any redevelopment of the Empire building would need to reinterpret the social and historical significance of the site through an architectural interpretation of the building,” says City of Sydney lord mayor Clover Moore.

“We’ve also included planning controls to encourage food and drink or entertainment uses at the ground and first floor.”

The heritage proposals came about following a controversial planning application to demolish most of the Bourbon and Empire hotels to develop 83 residential units.

“Darlinghurst Road has a long history as an internationally recognised late-night precinct, but the NSW Government’s lockout laws have had a significant impact on the area and resulted in growing interest from residential developers,” says Moore.

Darlinghurst Road Kings Cross 1964Darlinghurst Road, 1964. Image credit: City of Sydney

“The new controls will ensure proposed developments will build on the area’s individuality and architectural diversity, complemented with a mix of retail, commercial and residential offerings.

“Buildings are not only valuable because of their physical character but also because of their social significance. I’m happy that we’re taking important steps to retain the area’s history.

“Through extensive consultation with the community we have heard from residents, businesses and landowners who want more restaurants and cafes, live music venues, small bars, nightclubs, specialist shops, food shops and corner stores, as well as hotels and residential development.”

Coca Cola sign Darlinghurst Road Kings Cross 1980sDarlinghurst Road, 1980s. Image credit: City of Sydney

The heritage listings are the latest move by the City to protect the unique character of Kings Cross, following adoption of the Darlinghurst Road development control plan last month. These new planning controls will ensure new developments respect the area’s history and support retail, business activities and residential apartments.

William Street Kings Cross 1970
William Street, Kings Cross, 1970. Photography by James Fitzpatrick.