By DI BARTOK
THE owner of the iconic Roxy in Parramatta is set to make the venue “the pre-eminent hotel in the West” despite persistent calls for it to become a live theatre.
Owner David Kingston, speaking exclusively to this reporter, is bemused by the continued push for the 1930s-built Roxy to be either bought by the State Government or a private benefactor.
A naïve assumption in the save-the-Roxy community that Mr Kingston will willingly turn the theatre over for community use, or sell it even for a good price, is not as strong as his determination to retain and redevelop the property.
“In Australia, the owner decides the use of a property,” Mr Kingston told the Times.
“My plans are to replace the nightclub area with restaurant/bar areas. It will become a very high-quality community hotel – one of the top 5 in Sydney and the best in the West.”
Mr Kingston, who bought the Roxy in 2002 through his K Capital company, said the state heritage-protected Roxy building would be preserved and be part of any new development.
A rejection of his earlier proposal for a mixed-use tower behind the theatre has not thwarted Mr Kingston’s enthusiasm to redevelop the site, while retaining the Roxy exterior.
Mr Kingston said he had been in touch with the Lord Mayor and Parramatta Council to discuss his plans further.
“My group is financially very strong and the property is mortgage-free. I have owned it for 20 years and am committed to my planned upgrades,” he said, explaining why he had no financial need to off-load the Roxy.
Yet despite Mr Kingston giving no indication that he was wanting to sell up, Lord Mayor Donna Davis has called on the State Government to fund a business case for the acquisition of the Roxy.
“The Roxy has been a state heritage icon in Parramatta for more than 90 years,” Cr Davis said.
“The restoration and revitalisation of the Roxy as a cultural venue and the redevelopment of Riverside Theatres will further cement the City of Parramatta as the leading centre of arts and culture outside the Sydney CBD.”
It’s been a rocky ride
Cr Davis said demand for more performance stages and spaces had increased in Western Sydney.
It is true that the Roxy has had a rocky ride since Mr Kingston’s K Property Group, which bought it in 2002.
The Roxy became a successful nightclub, pub and for-hire venue, but attracted trouble when the wrong crowd gave it a bad reputation. It closed in 2014 and the K Group had plans for a massive redevelopment that included a $96 mill mixed use residential/commercial tower at the rear of the theatre.
When that plan was rejected in 2018 by Parramatta Council and the Land and Environment Court, Mr Kingston bided his time until he formulated his new vision.
Development around the site, including building of the light rail, has thwarted his plans but Mr Kingston senses the time will be right soon.
“I have preliminary architectural plans but it is premature to release them at this stage,” he said.
“We have to plan the upgrade to coincide with the Parramatta Metro construction, the four high rise buildings planned between the Roxy and Church St and council’s new Civic Link that adjoins the Roxy.”
Mr Kingston, acknowledging the unsavoury clientele the old Roxy nightclub had attracted, said Parramatta had changed since those days.
“With the universities, new businesses and residents in the CBD giving Parramatta a different atmosphere, our new hotel will attract a different crowd than before,” he said.
- The Roxy 69 George St.
- Built in 1930s as picture theatre.
- Run by Hoyts before Village bought it 1970s.
- Bought by K Capital 2002
- Developed into hotel 2004.
- Closed July 2014.
- Plans for redevelopment rejected 2018.
- L&E Court ratifies decision June 2019.
- Owner plans for new hotel 2022.
Image shows Parramatta’s iconic Roxy Theatre in its heyday.