An application for a 131-room hotel standing guard over the entrance to downtown Queenstown has been lodged with the council this week.

The design of the five-level hotel, on the Frankton Road/Stanley Street corner, has been swayed by a huge, historic wellingtonia tree, which is protected under the district plan.

“We have design solutions which will see that tree there for another 125-plus years”, developer Rob Neil says.

His Auckland-based Safari Group is suspending the ground floor so the root mass can be protected.

Neil denies the tree, reportedly planted at the top of Stanley St in 1891, is an obstacle. “The tree’s the golden goose on the site.”

The main pedestrian-only access to the four-star hotel will be behind the tree.

Safari Group, which bought the 2197 square metre site for $6 million, opened Ramada Hotel, near the airport, last year, and is building the Wyndham Garden hotel/residential apartment com-plex nearby.

Neil says the development value of his latest project will be $62m.

He’s deliberately asking for the resource consent application to be publicly notified.

He explains that under the current district plan, the site’s height limit is only eight metres, but under the proposed plan it’s 15m – and his hotel’s only two metres higher.

“We could hold back and not submit our resource consent till next year, once the new plan becomes active, but the problem is you’ll be another year down the track before we get a hotel.”

And that’s in a resort facing a shortage of visitor accommodation.

Neil says Auckland architects Studio 37 went through about 14 designs to come up with one befitting the site’s gateway location, while also satisfying the council’s urban design panel.

“We believe it tells a story and complements the location.

“I think it’s a spectacular design, I’m very proud of it.”

The lower two levels comprise schist stone, the two above are zinc-clad and the top floor is slightly recessed.

Facilities include a ground-floor restaurant/cafe, two small conference rooms and a gym.

Fulfilling planning requirements, there’ll be two coach parks and 44 carparks which will mostly be underground.

Neil says about 55 per cent of the units have been pre-sold – ranging from $280,319 for hotel rooms to $621,803 for two-bedroom apartments.

“I would say in the next month or so we’ll be starting to promote it pretty heavily.”

Two top-floor residential penthouses will be offered for almost $3m each.

Neil hopes his consent will be signed off by Christmas and that construction can start next April/May once his building crew have completed Wyndham Garden.

With a 14-month build, the hotel should open about June 2019.

The prominent site was formerly occupied by Laurel Bank House, which opened as a guesthouse in 1891.

Dilapidated in her latter years, she was trucked off in 2007 and restored to her former glory at Lower Shotover by local couple Sheena Haywood and Stephen Brent.