by Justine Doherty, Hawkesbury Gazette, Fairfax Media
Richmond Club CEO Kimberley Talbot said the club’s plans for a hotel on the site would not leave the gym and bowls crowds high and dry.
Protests by gym members at the club’s plans to put a hotel across the Activ8 gym site and main bowling green prompted Ms Talbot to call a special meeting for Tuesday night, November 22 to explain the plans and address the members’ concerns.
The meeting is the night before the club’s AGM on Wednesday, November 23, when members will be asked to give the go-ahead to allow the land to be used for the venture.
Ms Talbot said incorrect information about what was planned was being put about on social media, and the special meeting should address that.
“I want to say to members to take a breath, and listen to the big picture,” she said. “If everyone sits tight we will rent somewhere in Richmond, as close as possible . There are plenty of empty factory units. We’ll rent while we decide on the location for its new home, if members stay loyal. Everyone has to pull together to keep it going.”
She said two sites for a new gym were possible – at Richmond Golf Club, or adjoining the Richmond Club carpark across Francis Street.
Putting it across Francis Street would fit with the club’s plans to develop that carpark into 100-150 independent living units. Residents would then have a gym next door.
On the other hand if the gym went to Richmond Golf Club, having the gym, the bowling green and golf on the one site would mean they would get a sports tax exemption, making it all more viable.
Far from wanting to shut the gym, Ms Talbot said it had a special meaning for her.
“The gym is my baby!” she said. “It was my idea, and I started it in 2005. The last thing I want is to see it close! We have a Heartmoves program, there, classes for kids with a disability, and young mums with kids. We will rent premises for it and build the membership so we can present a business case for a new building.”
There are currently 833 gym members.
She said the bowls crowd which numbers about 100 would also be looked after. “We’ll build a synthetic green at Richmond Golf Club, next to the pro shop, before the hotel starts.”
A Richmond resident (who did not wish to be named) who attends the Heartmoves classes for older people with her husband several times a week, said the first she heard about the plan was early last week when another class member spoke to the class, saying ‘were you all aware they’re putting a hotel here’.
As the resident is also a member of Richmond Club she shortly thereafter received the invitation to the AGM, which spoke of the proposal.
She said people were afraid the gym was shutting down, which had caused consternation as the Heartmoves classes were integral to their social lives.
“It’s great for us oldies!” she said. “We normally have about 28 people in the class.”
The plan is not for the club to build the hotel itself but to either sell the land to a hotel chain or long-term lease it, with sale the preferred option. Ms Talbot said she was in “heavy negotiations” with an international chain at the moment for a 100-room, $15.5m hotel. If successful, Ms Talbot said it would probably take two to three years to get the DA approved.
The hotel is part of a huge raft of planned projects for the club, starting with a children and youth entertainment complex in the basement, due to start work next month, a multi-storey carpark where the current gated carpark is on the corner of Francis and Toxana streets, a childcare centre on the corner of Francis Street and Bensons Lane, and a huge auditorium with wrap-around windows in the club’s existing roof space.
Pictured above: The current building is the squarish shape; the proposed hotel is the long white oblong. It would stretch from the current gym building and cover half the big bowling green. The proposed multi-storey carpark would be on the other side of the current building, where a gated carpark is.