Developer Gurner’s $60m ‘love project’


Howard Salkow

Senior Journalist

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Design renders for the $60 million ultra-luxury development. Image: Supplied.
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The developer of a $60 million ‘mixed use’ development on the 69-73 Murphy Street site overlooking the Esplanade, is calling this a love project and one which his company is committed towards.

The Melbourne-based property developer Tim Gurner said Port Douglas is an incredibly special place for his family.

“And we are very excited to create something that will deliver an exceptional design outcome while creating jobs and helping to stimulate the local tourism sector again.

“This will be a love project and one I am incredibly committed towards,” said Gurner.

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Gurner is the second developer to commit themselves to a project in Port Douglas and allaying fears it will not happen.

On Friday, Newsport reported that Paul Chiodo, of Chiodo Corporation, said his planned and exclusive $300 million luxury resort on the former Havana resort project will definitely proceed and there are enough funds to start and complete the project.

Gurner, meanwhile, is continuing its diversification into the ultra-high-end wellness, tourism and hotel space for a boutique ultra-luxury wellness, hotel and private residences retreat in Port Douglas situated on 2833sqm of beachfront land.

The retreat will encompass a holistic wellness experience complete with its own Samsara Wellness brand – the first of which will launch at the developer’s sold-out St Moritz address in St Kilda - containing a spa, sauna, ice baths and cryotherapy, pool and treatment rooms.

Once complete the site is set to feature 16 ultra-luxury private residences and a further 18 boutique hotel rooms. The hotel will also be home to a new iconic restaurant and cocktail bar.

Not everyone in port is behind this project. A ProtectOurParadise website has been created by a group of residents to fight the development.

In an extensive interview with Newsport, Gurner said he loves Port Douglas and wants to achieve a positive outcome for the area.

i) Where are you at with council?

Plans have recently formally been submitted to council after an extensive consultation process with council’s planning department. We are in constant dialogue with Council and will continue to work with them until a great outcome is achieved on the site.

We are in dialogue with a number of Port Douglas leaders and designers to ensure we can come up with a final outcome that everyone is happy with.

It is important in planning situations like these that everyone is thinking about the future of Port Douglas and how it continues to function and survive as an amazing town and not let its future be determined by others that may have a conflict of interest in their opinions.

We will work with everyone who is interested in the project to ensure that it adds positively to Port Douglas.

The town is in desperate need of some new boutique luxury accommodation and we have the perfect site for that to occur and I would have thought most people would agree with that.

ii) Do you have a date when you would like to get started?

Construction will commence very soon after planning approval. We would like to see commencement by mid-2021.

iii) Can you confirm that with the relevant approvals, this development will happen?

This project is one that is very close to not just me but my entire family, and we are incredibly committed to bringing it to life. We do not intend to landbank this site, in fact the opposite is true - as soon as the necessary approvals are in place we will look to move quickly to commence construction.

iv) When would you like to see the resort open for business?

Immediately after completion of construction estimated to be late 2022.

v) Are you comfortable that you meet the town's plan, e.g. height of building. There has been questions about the seven storeys.

Firstly, it is not our intention at all to create controversy for locals. We want this to be an amazing building that adds to the town and people are proud of.

Absolutely, we believe it meets the objectives of the town plan and site specific plan – being a tourism zoomed site not a low density residential site. The site has discretionary height limits that are intended to provide flexibility to ensure the right outcome for the site is achieved.

We do fully appreciate the locals interest in the site and we will work with them to ensure they fully understand what we are trying to achieve. It is a very complex site and for someone who does not understand the site well or architectural plans I can understand why it may appear as seven levels that will be seen, but that is not the case.

The site itself is an old former quarry with a significant area that has been heavily excavated face towards the North and that area is where majority of the height is and that is why there is a misconception of the height. That area of the site must obviously be filled and it is there that majority of the building sits and most of it can never be viewed given it is under natural ground level.

While we understand the community’s concerns over the mention of seven storeys, three to four stories of those will sit underneath the natural ground line and therefore will not be visible from Murphy Street or from the surrounding residences. To this end the built form will only read as a 2-3 storey building from the street level which is very much in keeping with the height limit for the area.

It really comes down to a visual bulk argument and will the building look out of context for the area – and we all strongly believe that it will not.

We spent a very significant amount of money on site surveys, 3d aerial surveys of all treescapes so that we can develop real life montage images showing how much of the actual building will be visible and from majority of angles the building cannot be seen at all and from some angles it reads very well in the hill scape.

We have also paid a considerable amount of attention to landscaping and have engaged revered landscape architect, Myles Baldwin to create an abundance of verdant greenery and ensure the roofline sits within the existing tree canopy to soften view lines from the surrounding areas.

vi) Can you allay fears that while you are assisting development with a unique property, and some port residents and tax payers are either sceptical or want the development scuppered, your company is behind a significant development which will enhance the town.

Port Douglas is an incredibly special place for my family and we are very excited to create something that will deliver an exceptional design outcome while creating jobs and helping to stimulate the local tourism sector again – this will be a love project and one I am incredibly committed towards. GURNER™ is a family-owned development company and my wife and I have spent countless hours working through the plans with the amazing architects Powell & Glenn and Wolveridge Architects to create something that we hope will be a showpiece for Port Douglas.

When you look at what Antony Catalano has been able to do with Rae’s in Byron Bay offering something truly special and unique, and what The Oatleys have done with Qualia on Hamilton Island, they are without question a big inspiration for what we are hoping to deliver here. I want to assure the local community that I love Port Douglas and want to achieve a positive outcome for the area.

We want to do that for Port Douglas and we want to make sure that the locals feel very happy about it in the end and we will continue to work with them and Council to get the right solution.

Thank you!

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