18 October 2019

Gus' to be demolished and rebuilt as part of Geocon's Garema Place hotel

| Lachlan Roberts
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Gus' cafe in Garema Place

Geocon plans to raze and then rebuild Gus’. Photo: Michelle Kroll, Region Media.

The iconic and much-loved Gus’ cafe on Bunda Street may soon be demolished and then rebuilt as development company Geocon revealed its plans for the cafe as part of its $120 million luxury hotel in Garema Place.

ACT Heritage Council chair David Flannery said that the council was approached several months ago by Geocon to consider their proposal, and they have since approved the plans for an 11-storey, 215 room hotel which are currently under consideration by the Planning Directorate.

Mr Flannery said the council did not want to turn Canberra into a “heritage museum where nothing can change”, stating that the council is willing to work with owners and their architects to make appropriate alterations.

“The fabric of the existing building is not what is holding the heritage significance and heritage value,” Mr Flannery told Region Media. “The proponent is wanting to have an outdoor seating area which is the main intrinsic feature of the place.

“We are not too perturbed that the original fabric will be lost but we are delighted that a replacement cafe will be put in that location.”

Mr Flannery said that Geocon had agreed to the council’s request to keep the name and plaque in the new venue.

Artist's impression of the proposed hotel

Geocon’s proposed Canberra City Luxury Hotel development on Garema Place. Image: Geocon.

“They have agreed to take up the plaque in the pavement and protect it during the construction of the new works and then reinstall it in the same or similar location on completion,” Mr Flannery said.

“We don’t have control of what they call it but we have expressed the desire that the name Gus continue but we can’t put a heritage listing on the name.”

The ACT Heritage Council has also asked Geocon for the new venue to have either murals, photographs or drawings to tell the story of the cafe and how it inspired outdoor dining in Canberra.

Geocon bought the Garema Centre building at 70 Bunda Street in September 2017 for $13.35 million and has made three applications to build a luxury hotel in Garema Place. Geocon submitted its third application in May, this time incorporating an adjacent block and the iconic Gus’ cafe.

In a statement, Geocon said it was committed to reinstating Gus’ as one of the alfresco eateries on the ground floor as part of the new build.

“We are fully aware of its cultural significance to Canberra and its inclusion has been considered carefully,” the statement read. “Gus’ will have the same character, look and feel but it won’t be a carbon copy.”

Gus’, which was first opened in 1967 by Gus Petersilka, was heritage-listed in 2011 before undergoing a major refurbishment in 2017. The cafe has become a mainstay in the Canberra hospitality scene and it was the first Canberra cafe to introduce outdoor dining back in the 70s.

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This is not the city I wanted it to be.
Growth + Sustainabilty = lost of access to my city

At 11 storeys, Garema Place will be in shadow in the middle of winter. What a cold miserable place it will be, even on sunny days.

Once upon a time in a galaxy far, far away a labor government listened to the people not property developers, protected not destroyed heritage, appreciated didn’t bulldoze green spaces. But then a new generation grew up, complacent and lazy, uncaring and ignorant of the past heritage battles against greed. And the new generation kept voting in Barr.

And the so-called Greens who are so keen on preserving trees that they allowed more than 100 to be cut down on what was once beautiful Nortbourne Avenue to make way for their pet project, ‘light rail’.

Whether people like the building or not proposed to be constructed there, surely this is not a surprise to anyone. They were hardly going to pull the entire building bar the little corner where Gus’s is down and build around it. Good to see some reasonable pragmatism in decision making in this space.

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