Stephanie Anderson August 14, 2012
File Photo: Re-naming of Olims Hotel in Ainslie, to the Mercure Canberra. The exterior of the front of the hotel. Photo: Graham Tidy
Plans to extend the historic Mercure Canberra, formerly known as Olims, have raised concerns over the potential loss of heritage significance.
The amended application for the Limestone Avenue landmark follows last year's pitch for a $6 million extension, which would have added a four-storey wing with 125 rooms to the existing two-storey hotel.
The recent scaled down proposal lodged with the ACT Planning and Land Authority includes a three-level building with an attic, featuring 87 rooms across the four floors. The building, proposed for the rear car park site, would include a basement with 51 car spaces.
If approved it would bring the total number of rooms to 213 and would add 2650 square metres of floor space to the current 8270 square metres.
But it is the proposal's height which has raised concerns, says National Trust of Australia ACT research officer Bethany Lance.
Ms Lance said the proposed addition had the potential to overwhelm the original building, which is included in the Royal Institute of Architects Register of Significant 20th Century Architecture and the Australian Heritage Commission's Register of National Estates.
''We have big concerns,'' she said. ''We had concerns with the original DA … It seems none of these have been taken into consideration.''
Ms Lance said there were also concerns that the heritage report, submitted as part of the application, was written by architects instead of heritage consultants.
Prepared by Sydney-based Hosking Munro Pty Ltd, the report stated the proposed development would not impact on the heritage significance of the original building, which it claimed played an important role in the development of Canberra.
''The Hotel Ainslie [as it was originally known] is important to many long-term residents of Canberra as a physical reminder of the early social history of Canberra,'' it stated. ''It was and still is a significant landmark on the edge of the city and a focal point in the establishment and development of social life in Canberra.''
A report also outlined three features which it stated defined the site's heritage significance: the exterior of the original building, the landscaped central courtyard and the front garden, including the atlas cedars along Batman Street.
Mercure Canberra general manager Scott Grant, and Jerry Schwartz, director of the Schwartz Family Co Pty Ltd, which owns the hotel, were unable to provide comment.