From drainage headquarters to Art Deco luxury hotel - the transformation of one of Sydney's most impressive heritage buildings will be complete this week when the five-star Primus Hotel Sydney opens for business tomorrow.
Built in 1939, the Metropolitan Water Sewerage and Drainage Board building on Pitt Street was bought in 2008 by the Shanghai-based Greenland International Hotels Group for a reported $110 million, and restoration and construction has taken two years. "There is simply no other space like it in Sydney - and there never can be," says Jonathan Bryant, associate director of GBA Heritage, which oversaw the project with design architect Woods Bagot.
The hotel lobby is a show-stopper. It's flanked by eight scarlet scagliola columns, a rarely seen plaster technique that imitates marble, which required restoration by a team of a dozen craftsmen from Italy. The eight-metre columns are crowned by a mezzanine level and massive panelled skylight, minus a layer of tar and a roof installed in 1960. The newly illuminated space beneath houses a bar and 120-seat fine-diner The Wilmot, with an open kitchen overseen by Korean chef Ryan Hong, ex Rockpool Bar & Grill and Black by Ezard, and focused on an Asian-influenced, modern Australian menu.
The hotel's 172 guestrooms occupy six floors of former offices, transformed with custom-made navy carpet, oak joinery, marble bathrooms and Deco-inspired details.
A treat for guests only is the chic rooftop terrace, once a war-time rifle range, with a long marble bar, 20-metre pool, water features and cabanas. Eventually this terrace will be overlooked by Sydney's tallest residential tower, a 240-metre project being developed next door by the hotel's parent company.
"It was important for us to bring the building back to life and celebrate Sydney's history at a time when new developments are in full force," says Primus Hotel Sydney's general manager, Daniel Muhor.
It's the Chinese company's second Primus; the other is in the city of Shenyang in north-east China.
Rooms from $290. Primus Hotel Sydney, 339 Pitt St, Sydney, NSW; (02) 8027 8000
Pick up our February issue, out 25 January, for our feature on Sydney's six new boutique hotels.