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Sydney's Art Deco makeover: Primus Hotel Sydney opens for business

The transformation of one of Sydney's most impressive heritage buildings will be complete this week...

The lobby at Primus Hotel Sydney

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.