June 12, 2014
Albany lacks accommodation for an Anzac anniversary celebration this November while the site of the former Esplanade Hotel remains undeveloped.
This November marks 100 years since the Anzac troops left Albany for Gallipoli and Tourism WA estimates 48,000–65,000 visitors will travel to the town for the commemorative event.
City of Albany tourism development services manager Matthew Bird said this included an estimated 25,000 people who would need commercial accommodation.
He said the city’s estimate of available commercial accommodation for the region was only around 16,000.
“Obviously this means there will potentially be a significant shortfall for the November event,” said Mr Bird.
It has been seven years since the historic Esplanade Hotel was demolished and, given the accommodation shortage, locals are frustrated no action has been taken to turn the site into something other than an empty lot.
The landowners, Singapore Interests and CS Partners, are based in Singapore and could not be contacted for interview.
Originally the companies planned to build an 81-room hotel and 30 residential apartments on the site.
Despite protests from the public and threats from the State Government to buy back the land, the landowners have not taken any action to rebuild.
The State Government is now threatening compulsory acquisition of the site.
“However it’s a bit uncertain whether they are actually legally able to,” said Mr Bird.
Local comedian and writer Jon Doust, who regularly organises protests at the site of the former hotel, said the demolition of the Esplanade left Albany without a luxury hotel.
“In a way I think a lot of people in the town feel diminished by it’s passing,” he said.
Mr Doust laid the first sock on the fence surrounding the hotel as part of a public protest about the lack of action at the site.
“You can’t buy the block of land or build a hotel,” Mr Doust said.
“What can you do? You can own the fence. I reckon it’s our solemn duty as a community to have fun with the fence, because that’s the best we can do.”
Local citizen Bill Weedon said it was a shame the Esplanade was not still standing for the commemorative event.
“That was an obvious one,” he said. “It’s a missed opportunity.
“[The Esplanade] was a meeting place, a place to socialise with friends. It was very important.”
The city is encouraging local residents to offer additional holiday home or bed and breakfast services and the local community to invite friends and relatives to stay with them to take pressure off commercial accommodation supply for the anniversary.
Mr Doust thinks a ‘tent city’ on Centennial Oval could be more effective in solving the accommodation shortage.
“The army could come and build a tent city,” he said.
“It would look fantastic and it would be a beautiful way to commemorate because the oval was there in 1913, before they left.”