Ramada’s resort landmark

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Hardened hotel developer Rob Neil says the highstandard of Queenstown’s newRamada Hotel almost brought a tear to his eye.

A year ago, the prominent Frankton Road-Stanley Street corner site was being used as a makeshift carpark, barren except for a beautiful old wellingtonia tree.

Now a landmark $62 million five-storey, 131-room hotel sits on the 2188sqm plot.

Neil, boss of Auckland-based development and construction firm Safari Group, says: “We’re very happy. We were in and out in 11 months.

“What we’ve delivered is stronger than the original rendering.

“I was there last Thursday, about 6pm, and I went for a last walk around it before I went to the airport.

“I almost had a tear in my eye, looking at the building at dusk with the lights coming on, and just thinking ‘wow, we’ve delivered something pretty spectacular’.”

Neil says he’s had a personal email from Queenstown’s mayor Jim Boult congratulating him on the project.

“For years, everyone with that site worried about the height limit and the tree, the problems it gave them. We went the other way and designed a building that amplified the tree.”

That’s made things “exceptionally difficult”, though.

“We had to x-ray where all the roots are, it was a massive job. And even the management of the tree moving forward is quite major. There are systems in place.

“Half the front of the building floats over the tree roots.”

It’s the third of five hotel buildings Safari Group is delivering to the resort. It’s also completed the Ramada Remarkables and Wyndham Gardens.

Work is “well underway” on Ramada Kawarau River, which has 87 hotel rooms and 96 residential and should open next October, and a five-star property is in the works, also at Remarkables Park.

In Ramada Queenstown Central, there are 62 hotel rooms, 60 studio apartments, four one-bedroom apartments and five two-bedroom apartments.

Neil usually develops the buildings and is the original Ramada franchisee, before selling on the franchise.

However, he’s decided to keep hold of the Frankton Road business and parts of the property, such as the office space and carparks.

But all the units, including the two penthouses, have already sold to investors. Seventy five have been handed over to owners, the rest by the end of the week.

“The only thing left for sale is the restaurant, which is fully leased. We’re looking for an investor to purchase the restaurant.”

The al fresco Redwoods restaurant will open mid-October. The extended external decking and two wooden cabins – featuring a bar and pizzeria – were late additions to the plans.

paul.taylor@scene.co.nz