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Byron Shire
February 28, 2021

Mega hotel and function centre proposed for heart of Byron

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The developer behind Byron’s Mercato shopping mall is planning to build a sprawling $40m mixed-use development on the old Woolies site next door that significantly exceeds both height and floor space limits.

In a development application that was quietly lodged just before Christmas, Mercato is proposing to build a 146-room hotel, function centre, and retail premises on the Jonson Street site.

Floor space and height exceedance

An artist’s impression of the front of the 146-room hotel and function centre which Mercato wants to build on the old Woollies site on Jonson St Byron Bay

Named Essence of Byron, the three-storey development is topped with a private rooftop pool and bar that takes it more than 20 per cent above the 11.5m height limit for central Byron.

The development’s 7,515 square metres of floor space also represents a 36 per cent exceedance of the floor-space ratio limit for this part of town.

Central to the developer’s justification for seeking to build higher than the rules allow is the fact that Council gave it permission to do so on its shopping plaza next door. 

‘The proposed scale and form of the development is compatible with the adjacent Mercato on Byron shopping centre,’ the application states.

The variation to height limits for the shopping centre was granted in return for a pledge by the developer to include cutting-edge environmental features.

The pledge for a five-green-star rating from the Green Building Council of Australia has been downgraded to an aim.

With no such promises being made in relation to Essence of Byron, the wisdom of Council’s decision to allow the height limit exceedance is now being questioned.

Cr Cate Coorey told The Echo, ‘This is a game changer for Byron because we don’t have any really big hotels like this in town’. 

‘Council recently consulted with the community about increasing height limits in the centre of town and the feedback was clear – people don’t want it. 

‘They’re using the fact that we allowed the Mercato shopping centre to go over the height limit to justify going over it again here.

‘I opposed that decision at the time and I think this shows that it was a mistake because it set a precedent.’ 

But acting mayor Michael Lyon told The Echo he did not believe a precedent had been set. 

‘That exceedence was only allowed in very specific circumstances which don’t apply here,’ Cr Lyon said. He added he opposed the proposal in its current form.  

Planning panel decision

It appears Council will have no say as to whether Essence of Byron goes ahead, because with a price tag of $39,897,000 it will automatically come before the Northern Regional Planning Panel (formerly the Joint Regional Planning Panel) for determination.

The developer sought to justify its floorspace ratio exceedance by referring to the Byron Bay Town Centre Masterplan, which identified that there was a need to amend or remove floorspace ratio limits across the town centre.

While the Masterplan has been adopted by Council, it carries no legal weight.

A spokesperson for the developer said that only five per cent of the building’s footprint was above the height limit. 

They said that those components that did exceed the limit were set back from the road and would not be easily visible. 

He also said that the proposed floor area was ‘necessary to support a viable hotel of this character’. 

‘A comprehensive assessment has been undertaken, which demonstrates the proposal will not result in adverse built amenity impacts and will provide positive social and economic impacts for the Shire.’

While the development application has been with Council for more than four months, it is yet to go on public exhibition because the developer is yet to complete the application by submitting a social impact assessment (SIA). 

The developer’s spokesperson said the assessment would be submitted this week.

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    • Oh Juan… you either need to buy some glasses or move to a sleepy town far from Byron. Majority of people love the shopping centre and cant wait to see the hotel. There are plenty of undeveloped towns in this country. Please move to one.

  1. That facade looks awfully cheap, tasteless and nasty. We’re already over cheap facades that rarely get painted and look dreadful very quickly.

    All existing parking will be shoved onto Jonson Street.
    There appears to be no underground parking in the design for the public, so Jonson Street will get a double hammering of extra cars.

    Do we really NEED a 146-room hotel right in the centre of town??

    • Agreed, the main issue here is the increasing amount of traffic that will se Byron become a permanent gridlock (as if it already isn’t) – a sustainable transport plan is paramount

    • Tim are you serious ?? There is plenty of parking under the new woolworths! From what I’ve heard the bottom level of parking is being over run by backpackers etc.. Maybe some security would be good or cameras.

    • That’s a possibility … make the development $40m and it seems you get access to a whole new way of planning.

    • You people and your stupid Gold Coast comments.. Im guessing your referring to Surfers Paradise because the rest of the coast is actually quite nice. Byron will never be Surfers Paradise no matter how many big hotels you build. Idiots

  2. Any long term & local residents know that the Byron we have known & loved for its unique & funky vibe is gone… The trashy, glitzy, wind blown tinsel errection @ the roundabout is a perfect indication of the direction in which the future of Byron is headed..
    Precedents set, there is very little chance of minimizing it. The developers won’t stop.. Joni Mitchells song says it all…

  3. No we don’t need a146 room hotel, but The Plaza site and Woolworths were doomed from the moment they approved Mercato. It was never going to remain a car park. If this DA goes through in time and the West Byron applicants comeback for a second bite of the cherry, which they will, it will be time to sell up and bail out. Seriously. I’ll be gone from The Shire. I’m sick of fighting the loosing battle.
    Sad. With proper planning and vision Byron could have been everyones utopian experience. Now it’s becoming just a place

    • Yes, we are on the slippery slope. As everyone so far has said the town and the Shire is just slowly slipping away from its culture,character and ethos. Sad.

    • Every agent will have a list of buyers ready to swoop in to buy up for a holiday let investment. U won’t have much trouble selling when the time comes, Peter. ?

  4. No we don’t need another huge hotel in the middle of town. Byron is already cluttered with traffic stop, starting to get through town, this will add further to the traffic build up. It took me over 15 minutes to get through one round-about on the weekend. The people who are behind building this huge development are investors who are not interested in maintaining or supporting the ambience that local residents of Byron have strived to keep. Their interest is in making money and moving on to the next development at the cost of destroying the once laid back town Byron once was.

  5. I am opposed. The Mercato building is ugly to the eye and at odds with the look and character of Byron. So sad because the facilities are great. Any new development needs to be more in keeping with the Byron vibe. Aesthetics count.

  6. Once you let this parasite in it was only a matter of time before they started to want more. What kind of crap council let this shite corporation in in the first place??

  7. What we need is more development in Byron Bay. Skin cancer is out of control, And tourists and locals alike need protection from the harsh Australian sun. What we need is shade, lots of it. especially in the afternoon. The shire needs wall to wall high-rise along the beach front, all the way to Brunswick Heads to help protect the town’s collective skin. Property developers should be applauded for their generosity, not vilified. And the proposed develop,emt should receive a big tax deduction equal to the cost of its construction in recognition of its contribution to community health. Then to service this we need an eight lane highway from Ballina and the Gold Coast.. All you NIMBY environmentalists be damnned!

  8. There is nothing I like about this new complex, we may as well be on the Gold Coast or Brisbane , Byron Bay is quickly loosing the essence of its individual character. How was this ugly development approved. Now to make matters worse the proposed hotel next door , exceeding height limits in the shire . We are struggling at the best of times as locals to get car parks in peak season this would only aggravate the situation. Change is inevitable there’s no deny that but it doesn’t have to be so tasteless, come on Byron Council get your act together

  9. Everything these lovely people have said in the comments is true. So many of us are truely heart broken that what was is no more, and never will be again. So sad. Where did all the good people go??

  10. Once the parasite has dug its claws in there will be just more and more blood sucking. Welcome to the gold coast of Byron Bay. The land of corporate tourism at its most ugly.

  11. OK, Build into this development, affordable housing flats that is regulated by volunteer non-profit organisation (local preferably) maybe Smith Family,
    Build into this development a ‘soup kitchen’ & free health clinic.
    Put a skate park in the front.
    At $40,000,000 you have to make it 100% green and energy efficient.

    • True enough, if we decry Airbnb we must accept more commercial accommodation development. But just like affordable housing, the need doesn’t make every DA purporting to provide it, suitable for a green light.

  12. How ironic that it is under a Green council that the floodgates have finally been fully opened to rampant over-development of the worst and most tasteless kind.

  13. You could set up a really great night market there. Much more on keeping with the culture of Byron.
    Cairns has one and it’s really popular.

  14. The problem is that if we close down Airbnb then where are the tourists going to stay?

    We need to build far more than 148 rooms just to accommodate for closing the existing tourist accommodation industry.

  15. Once again you have decided to wreck more of a once lovely town. Please don’t take people for fools.
    Enough is enough or is it council. Developers sick. They make fast money and walk away.

  16. Gross. Just what we need another bloody hotel. Do we really have to throw away the original charm of Byron and homogenise to a Gold Coast standard? It breaks my heart coming into Byron to see the town I grew up in and loved so deeply, turned to an unrecognizable, citified, culture-less chain store chain. It’s not progress, it’s greed and it’s gross.

  17. “If you give an inch, they will take a mile.”

    Please don’t let big scale developers ruin Byron, it will destroy the essence of the place.

    I’m not against development, but not on a large scale like this.

  18. Essence of Byron ???? Oh really ! Since when is the Essence of Byron an oversized ,over height concrete monster . Get a grip and get out of town. To even try to build somesthing outside our planning guidelines and call it our essence is totally disrespectful to our town and locals

  19. As soon as this hotel is built, I’m buying The Railway Hotel and turning it into a McDonalds. It’s the next logical step.


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