It’s raining hotels

Snapped up: Central Queenstown's Laurel Bank site

A second landmark hotel is to be built by the main road into downtown Queenstown, amidst the resort’s visitor accommodation shortage.

Last Friday, Auckland developer Safari Group bought the prominent Frankton Road/Stanley Street corner site.

It has plans for a 100- to 120-room hotel which, when developed, will be valued at about $45 million.

Five weeks ago, Aussie developer Pro-invest Group announced it’s building a $60m, 227-room hotel on the nearby corner of Stanley, Sydney and Melbourne Sts.

Safari Group’s Robert Neil is already working with an architect, whom he won’t name yet, on a hotel design.

“It’s got lake views, it’s CBD, it’s a marquee site coming into town,” he says.

“At the end of the day, it’s a bit of land with some buses parked on it, so what goes there needs to say, ‘hey, you’ve now arrived in Queenstown’, and that’s what we’re working around.”

A hotel-room shortage is pushing up Queenstown prices.

Queenstown’s hotel room occupancy for the year to March was 90 per cent, at an average rate of $240 – a 15 per cent jump over the same period last year, Colliers International figures, released on Tuesday, show.

But there’ll be hopes that’ll ease with a solid pipeline of hotel, apartment and backpacker rooms planned.

In the last 12 months, Mountain Scene has written about developments totalling roughly 800 rooms.

Safari Group, which has developed more than a dozen hotel-based properties around New Zealand, is already active in Queenstown.

Last winter it opened the 59-room Ramada hotel at Frankton’s Remarkables Park.

It was the resort’s first new hotel in five years and the first to be built near the airport.

It’s now developing Wyndham Garden next door, comprising 75 hotel and 55 residential apartments.

In March, Neil told Scene he was looking for more hotel sites in Frankton or central Queenstown.

Safari’s latest purchase, brokered by local Ray White agent John Leith, presents challenges.

A wellingtonia tree on the Stanley St frontage, dating back to about 1891, has to be protected along with the ‘drip-line’ around it.

Suitable off-street carparking and a coach drop-off area also have to be provided for the 2188 square metre site.

Neil, however, says there are “designable solutions” to both issues.

He won’t reveal what he paid for the land – Scene understands it fetched between $5.7m and $6m.

As with Ramada Remarkables Hotel and Wyndham Garden, Safari Group will unit-title the hotel and sell the individual rooms off the plans.

Neil hopes to start work next April/May to provide continuity for his building crew at Wyndham Garden.

He already has an operator lined up.

Neil has met with local mayor Jim Boult, council boss Mike Theelen and council planners to seek their support.

“Obviously, no one can give me any confirmation in concrete, but certainly I think that what we’re proposing will make the township happy.”

Neil’s new site has been vacant for 10 years.

Laurel Bank House opened as a summer guesthouse on the property in 1891, but in latter years, after last serving as residential flats, it fell into disrepair.

Local couple Sheena Haywood and Stephen Brent trucked the building off the site in 2007, then restored her to her former glory on a section at Queenstown’s Lower Shotover.