Significant effort and investment has gone into ensuring some of the most important features of the Regent Theatre will remain if a hotel is built on the site, the director of a company behind the development said.
The Blue Douglas director Chris Mathews said it was important that the feel of the theatre was incorporated into the 84-room hotel, which is seeking a development application from Mid-Western Regional Council.
He said he understood the community had a great love for the Regent Theatre and that is why so much work had gone into retaining the important aspects.
There has been significant resistance from sections of the community who want to see the building used as a theatre or cultural centre.
Mr Mathews said the front facade and side walls would be retained, while inside the foyer, grand staircases and upstairs entertainment area would all be kept.
The heritage of the theatre would be a running theme, he said, with all memorabilia including the ticket booth, either retained for display or donated to local groups.
“We’re very sympathetic to people who want to keep the theatre but it’s just not possible. I would have loved to see it stay as a theatre but in the age of Netflix it couldn’t be done,” he said.
“I personally think this is the second best alternative and we will keep as much of the theatre as we can.”
Mr Mathews said the plan was to offer more than a regular hotel, with a function centre offering facilities for weddings and other gatherings, as well as a rooftop bar.
Other motels and accommodation operators in Mudgee are opposed to the proposal, with one motel owner arguing the development would drain guests from existing businesses, rather than attracting new ones.
We’re very sympathetic to people who want to keep the theatre but it’s just not possible.Chris Mathews
Winning Post Motor Inn owner Greg Dowker declined to talk in his role as Mudgee Chamber of Commerce president, but said as a hotelier he had issues with such a large hotel being built.
He said while there was a perception that Mudgee was often fully booked, he said there were only two regular events where accommodation in the area was filled.
“One is the Small Farm Field Days and the other is any time there is A Day On Green concert. People say weekends are busy but Fridays are hard to fill and you can’t rely on one night a week to run your business,” he said.
“Mudgee already has good hotels and a diverse range of room standards for accommodation.
“If this development is approved, you will have hotels that aren’t doing so well and then they will stop spending money, and then you get bad hotels.”
Mr Dowker said said there were other problems with the DA including the height of the building and a shortage of car parking spaces.
Mod Urban director Matthew O’Donnell has been hired as a consultant for the developer and said they were confident they had addressed the concerns to meet council approval.
The proposed height of 16.2 metres was 91 per cent higher than allowed under the Mudgee Local Environmental Plan but the existing theatre was already significantly higher.
A previous development application for a 34-unit apartment complex with a height of 15.4 metres was also approved, Mr O’Donnell said.
When it came to parking, traditional motel requirements include one car space per room and two for disabled rooms. The development has proposed 33 car spaces.
However Mr O’Donnell said there was room to work on the basis it was a tourism hotel, which would work off the guideline of one car space per four rooms.
He said there were other factors including the shortfall of car spaces that the Regent Theatre had when operating as a cinema that seated 900. Mr O’Donnell said council may also choose to exempt the development from the requirement because of the conservation of a heritage item.
Public submission for the development application will be open until December 1.