The Gowings building in the Coffs Harbour CBD. Photo by Janine Watson.
The Gowings building in the Coffs Harbour CBD. Photo by Janine Watson.

CBD hotel and jetty plans in limbo: John Gowing

Plans for a 92-room hotel above Coffs Central are in limbo as the economic impacts of COVID-19 play out according to John Gowing.

"We have to see how the economy pans out. It's the biggest risk we have had to deal with in 100 years; keeping businesses running in this context," Mr Gowing said.

"We're lucky in some ways but God knows what will happen in the next few weeks with what's going on in Sydney."

An artist's impression of the high-rise hotel development proposed for the top of Coffs Central by Gowings Pty Ltd.
An artist's impression of the high-rise hotel development proposed for the top of Coffs Central by Gowings Pty Ltd.

A DA for a multistorey hotel (and two floors of commercial area and extended retail space) on top of Coffs Central shopping centre was first approved in July 2017.

The consent was partially acted upon in 2018 with retail extensions, upper deck carparking and two office levels but then things went quiet.

In January 2018 a Gowings representative told the Coffs Coast Advocate: "No decision has been made to proceed with the hotel at this stage which is still in a feasibility stage."

Camera shy John Gowing has been the managing director of Gowing Brothers for almost 35 years. Gowings main office is now located in Coffs Harbour at the Coffs Central site.
Camera shy John Gowing has been the managing director of Gowing Brothers for almost 35 years. Gowings main office is now located in Coffs Harbour at the Coffs Central site.

In a sign the development was back on track Gowings submitted stratum subdivision plans to Coffs Harbour City Council for approval late last year.

They show the height of the development will reach close to 40 metres.

Cost estimates have not been included in the current plans but previous estimates have put it at over $20m.

"Now it's just a market issue. We just don't know what the market is going to do. While we have this pandemic it's going to be hard to borrow the money to build it."

He also spoke of the loss of income to overseas booking agents and to any prospective hotel operator.

"About fifteen to eighteen per cent of revenue goes to international booking agents. All that money leaves Australia never to be seen again - no tax paid.

"Then there's the hotel operator who gets a cut so there's not much left in it for the investor."

Gowings Brothers also own the large corner block at the Jetty where the old Forestry building once stood.

old forestry building Coffs Jetty.. 28 FEB 2018
old forestry building Coffs Jetty.. 28 FEB 2018 TREVOR VEALE

In June last year the Advocate revealed early concept plans for the site which include apartments with sweeping views of the coast, sitting over a commercial and retail base that includes a large public courtyard and garden.

RELATED: Plans revealed for prime Jetty block

Currently Gowings Bros are in negotiation with Council to acquire a section of the grassed area fronting Harbour Drive.

"This could be a two year process so there's not much point proceeding with plans until this is finalised."

The old Forestry building at the Jetty is gone and Gowings is negotiating with Coffs Harbour City Council to obtain a section of the grassed area facing Harbour Drive.
The old Forestry building at the Jetty is gone and Gowings is negotiating with Coffs Harbour City Council to obtain a section of the grassed area facing Harbour Drive.

In general terms the Council's jetty masterplan states they are open to the concept of transferring land to private landowners if it is of public benefit.

The Gowings head office was recently relocated from Sydney to Coffs Harbour. It has been operating out of the Coffs Central location since early December.

"There's only a small number of us - about twelve staff - but it's a really nice open space and we put in a UV system to filter out pathogens."