Newcastle looks poised for its first five-star hotel after Newcastle City Council completed the sale of the Newcastle roundhouse to internationally-backed hotelier Crystalbrook Collection.
Crystalbrook, owned by Dubai-based billionaire Ghassan Aboud, will now set plans in motion to turn the brutalist 9-storey "roundhouse" building, which is not heritage-listed, into a 135 room hotel.
The developer sounded out a number of viable locations and potential sites for hotels in Newcastle, most notably in Honeysuckle, before settling on the CAC building.
The building, known by multiple names including the wedding cake, the roundhouse, the champagne cork and the shuttlecock, has become an icon of Newcastle’s CBD skyline since it was opened in June 1977.
Aboud is rumoured to have paid close to $20 million for the landmark, according to industry sources.
A portion of the funds from the Roundhouse sale will go to fitting out the city’s new administration building on the corner of Stewart Avenue and Hunter Street.
New owner Aboud, who owns Orient Media, Syria’s main television, radio and online media network, made his fortune exporting cars in the United Arab Emirates in 1994.
The 51-year-old has grown the Ghassan Aboud Group, which includes media, motor vehicle, hospitality, real estate and retail subsidiaries, into a global conglomerate.
Established in early 2016, Crystalbrook Collection expands the Ghassan Aboud Group’s interests in the hotel industry, property and tourism sectors.
“Australia has a very strong economy and other strong markets around it, such as Japan, China, Malaysia and Indonesia,” Ghassan Aboud Group director Ghassan Aboud said.
“It’s also a stable market for the hospitality sector.”
“Initially we studied Europe but, in the end, we opted for Australia.”
Crystalbrook, will now push forward with plans to convert the brutalist building into a 5-star hotel named “Kinsley”.
The new luxury hotel will include a lobby bar, cafe with outdoor terrace and a new roof top with restaurant, swimming pool and gymnasium.
“The structure as you look at it now is not going to change vastly,” Crystalbrook Collection chief executive Mark Davie said.
“It’s a beautiful structure, and we love it, as far as we’re concerned, we can only improve upon it.”
Once approval is gained Crystalbrook expects the Kingsley to be redeveloped and operating by November 2020.
Crystalbrook has $370 million invested in three five-star hotels that are about to open in Cairns as well as a lodge in Queensland’s outback.
The developer is also preparing to expand further north into Port Douglas by building a hotel at the Marina Mirage.
Meanwhile in Sydney, Crystalbrook has bought Australia’s newest boutique hotel, which was developed and designed by Paul Fischmann, founder and owner of 8Hotels and acquired Little Albion, a boutique hotel in Surry Hills.
Doma Group has also started work on its 140-room Little National Hotel at Honeysuckle.