A COMMUNITY meeting at Sorrento this weekend will try to find out what’s happening at the scaffold surrounded Continental Hotel.
Nepean Conservation Group president Dr Ursula de Jong will give a brief history of the hotel before discussion centres on the stalled renovations, looks at the current works progress and queries the 1875 building’s future.
The venue is the Sorrento Community Centre, 11.30am-1pm, Sunday 30 June. Speakers will include Mornington Peninsula shire planning director David Bergin, the hotel’s developer Julian Gerner, Nepean MP Chris Brayne and a representative from the National Trust. There will be opportunity for questions and answers and everyone interested is invited to attend.
Alarm bells rang loudly over the viability of the hotel’s $80 million redevelopment in May when Mr Gerner admitted being caught up in a funding squeeze before Easter. (“‘Conti’ work stalls as developers chase cash” The News 6/5/19).
At the time an upbeat Mr Gerner said that while a “gap between funding arrangements” had forced and end to works, the “money is in the pipeline for the next stage of construction” in the third quarter of this year. He said the amount being sought was around $40 million.
Meanwhile, Mr Gerner’s joint-venture partner Steller — which specialises in mid and large-scale apartment complexes in Melbourne’s southeast suburbs, and had $4 billion worth of projects in the pipeline last year — has been in the news for all the wrong reasons.
Rushed property sell-offs, dissolved partnerships, manufacturing site closures and staff redundancies came after the company was hit with tighter rules on construction financing and a falling property market; borrowings have become more expensive and harder to obtain. Steller has fired 76 staff from its construction team, put at least one development on hold, and sold three of its development sites to new buyers.
Now, after months of stagnation – and with winter rains wreaking havoc on the exposed structure – the development’s critics are getting edgy.
“The community is incredibly concerned,” Dr de Jong said.
“There is much misinformation around at the moment and the Nepean Conservation Group would like the community to be well informed, so the meeting is urgent and timely.”
Dr de Jong wrote to Mr Bergin and the shire’s building surveyor Claudio Flores last month warning about the “safety, structural stability and potential for degradation of the abandoned works at the old hotel in Ocean Beach Road”.
“A member of our committee is a structural engineer who has experience in refurbishment of distressed buildings and reinstatement of damaged buildings,” her letter said.
The engineer’s report cited “incomplete retaining structures, missing downpipes and guttering, roofs removed and not replaced, unsealed windows and open walls allowing water to damage walls and floors and incomplete structural repairs”.
Claims were also made that 10 metre deep excavations were buttressed with incomplete retaining structures with concrete infills between the piles not finished “exposing the retained soil to erosion and possible collapse”.
The conservation group requested that the council’s building surveyor inspect the works with a suitably qualified independent structural engineer to determine whether the existing building and new structures are safe.
“An emergency order should be issued if the stability is found lacking or the building will suffer from deterioration due to exposure,” Dr de Jong said.