Canberra developer Geocon plans to redevelop the Woden Tradies Club site into one of its trademark high-rise apartment precincts after buying the property for $16 million.
The Tradies Group accepted an unsolicited offer for the site, which is bounded by Launceston Street, Melrose Drive and Furzer Street in Phillip and occupied by the club, Quality Hotel and an adjacent car park.
Chief executive Rob Docker said the decision to offload the property and close the club and hotel was made with a heavy heart but the Woden club had found it very difficult to make ends meet and would now close in January.
“The club has found it very difficult, given its size, to compete with the Hellenic Club and Southern Cross Club in that location,” he said.
The Woden Tradies has been part of the area’s entertainment and hospitality scene for nearly 50 years since it opened in 1969. But its membership of a little more than 10,000 is dwarfed by that of the other clubs. They will be absorbed by the sister club in Dickson.
Mr Docker said the club industry in general was suffering from declining patronage and increasing competition from restaurants and hotels.
Although the hotel was making money, the Tradies board believed it would be too difficult, given the amalgamated nature of the site, to continue with that business and close the club.
Mr Docker said the sale gave the Tradies the opportunity to focus on its Dickson operations and plan for potential redevelopment there.
“Dickson Tradies is a lovely but ageing club and we have to think of all those things in the future,” he said. “Any development might be looking at a three to five-year period. There’s a lot of conceptual work to be done to determine exactly what we might do long term in the Dickson precinct.”
No decision had yet been made about the Woden club’s gaming machine authorities, including whether to sell them to Casino Canberra.
He said he hoped most of the 60 staff, mostly casuals with about 10 to 15 permanents, would go to Dickson but there may be some redundancies if that was not possible.
“We’ll be working very closely with United Voice, the union for hospitality workers. Together we’ll be very attuned to all the HR issues and most definitely we’ll err on the side of generosity, particularly for those people who have worked for us for a long time,” he said.
Mr Docker said a retraining fund would be set up and counselling made available.
The site is ready-made for redevelopment with the blocks amalgamated and lease varied some years ago at “some great cost” when the previous Tradies administration had submitted various development applications.
Geocon said it was expanding its focus on Canberra’s main town centres after the recent acquisition of the City 7 site in Reid and the announcement of an expansion strategy into regional NSW for its Abode Hotels brand.
Managing Director Nick Georgalis said its only presence in Woden was the Abode Hotel in Bowes Street, where it converted the old Juliana House – a 1970s public service office building – into Australia’s first green-star rated hotel.
“The one-hectare Furzer/Launceston Street site presents another excellent opportunity for a Geocon trademark precinct-style development, and with last year’s announcement that the next phase of the light rail will extend south from the city to Woden, this town centre has great appeal for us,” he said.
Mr Georgalis said the hotel would continue to trade while planning for the mixed-use, high-rise precinct got under way.
“While the sale will be finalised next year, a new project in this location aligns with our commitment to meet the increasing demand for quality apartments in Canberra,” he said.
Woden Valley Community Council president Fiona Carrick said she was concerned at the loss of local jobs, and would be seeking to ensure that any residential development considered the needs of the community and was not simply about building height and yield for the developer.
Geocon has 1,500 apartments under development across Canberra this year, with another 3,000 in the pipeline, all in the major town centres or on the light rail route. Its Abode Group is the ACT’s largest hotel brand with 400 hotel rooms under management, another 600 in the pipeline, and expansion plans across regional NSW.
Are you a Woden Tradies member or former member? Tell us what you think about its demise and any memories you may have? Is an another apartment complex good for Woden?