Plans for a $40 million redevelopment of Murray Bridge's Bridgeport Hotel have finally been revealed.
After years of discussion and design changes, the Eureka Hotel Group has settled on a six-storey, 96-room, 4.5-star concept that would change the rural city's skyline and main street forever.
The new building would feature a restaurant, function room, gym, outdoor pool and balcony bar, gaming area, al fresco dining and an expanded drive-through bottle shop.
It would stand more than 28 metres high, a similar height to the nearby silos, and would face the river.
The existing Bridgeport Hotel, which dates back to 1884, would be demolished to make way for the development.
The final decision on whether to approve the proposal will be made by the Adelaide-based Development Assessment Commission (DAC), not the Murray Bridge council.
But proponents Jamie McLachlan and Ian Tregoning still chose to front a council meeting on Monday night to explain their vision.
Mr Tregoning described his "overwhelming sense of frustration" that the Eureka group had spent four years and $500,000 developing four separate concept designs, based on conflicting advice provided by different planning authorities.
"You've got someone willing to take a risk, spend $40 million, leverage tourism, create an iconic building for Murray Bridge, and if it doesn't happen now, it's never going to happen," he said.
"We have other projects we can do, and we're at the end of our tether."
The economics behind the current proposal were "marginal", he said, but the developers would make their money back in the long term.
He said a hundred full-time jobs would be created if the concept became a reality.
Councillors and Mayor Brenton Lewis were generally supportive of the idea.
"We have no doubt what you're trying to achieve is good for this region, for Murray Bridge and the state," Mr Lewis said.
"Regardless of where this (proposal) sits, we're keen to work with you.
"We want to do everything possible to land this development in this city."
But councillors did note advice from two architectural experts who gave very different opinions about the hotel's historical importance.
On the one hand, the Bridgeport was central to Murray Bridge's early days: it was the first one in town, used for everything from Catholic masses to rowing club and possibly council meetings.
Its upper storey retains its Victorian character, and Flightpath Architects – hired by the council – suggested the original stone walls on the ground floor could still be there, hidden behind a brick facade.
However, its ground floor has been substantially remodelled and barely resembles old photographs.
Dash Architects – hired by the developers – argued that was reason enough to dismiss its heritage listing.
"We can't be bound to some of those ugly renovations, those bastardisations," Mr Tregoning said.
Cr Theo Weinmann agreed, saying the hotel looked nothing like it used to.
"There should be no worry about history,” he said.
“In 100 years the new hotel will be history.”
Other details not ‘deal-stoppers’
The proposal would also clash with other local zoning laws, though council CEO Michael Sedgman said such matters were not "deal-stoppers".
In advice provided to the DAC, council staff took issue with the building's height, well over the eight-metre limit which exists on Bridge Street; its lack of "architectural merit" or focus on the main street; and the potential for traffic problems on South Terrace.
"The redevelopment of the site, if approved, will change the urban fabric of Murray Bridge," assessing officers said.
"The development has the potential to set the scene as a catalyst for further development and change and it is therefore critically important that the development is a prime example of good planning and design."
Staff provided a list of suggested remedies to the more minor issues.
Councillors voted to formally express their support, saying such a “substantial” development was likely to have “significant” economic and social benefits, particularly given the demand for high-end accommodation in the Murraylands.
No date for a DAC verdict has yet been set.