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$40 million twist after Sydney inferno

BUILDING FIRE SITE
Bricks and debris on Randle Street, Surry Hills, after a fire caused a building to collapse on Thursday. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Nikki Short

The heritage-listed building that went up in a roaring blaze in Sydney was slated to be the location of a fancy hotel with a $40m redevelopment plan.

More than 100 firefighters worked to contain the fire, which gutted the seven-storey building on Randle Street near Central Station, after it broke out just after 4pm on Thursday.

Firefighters worked all night to extinguish the blaze, graded as the most severe category of fire, as it sent smoke churning into the sky and crumbled the brick facade.

BUILDING FIRE SITE
Bricks and debris on Randle Street, Surry Hills, after a fire caused a building to collapse on Thursday. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Nikki Short
The hat hotel that went up in a blaze. Picture Architect 4.png
The proposed hotel site went up in a blaze on Thursday afternoon. Picture: Tonkin Zulaikha Greer architects

RELATED: Insane photos of huge Sydney fire

Two 13-year-old children have since handed themselves into police in relation to the inferno, with police hoping to speak to more teenagers who are believed to have been at the scene.

“We are speaking with those young people throughout the evening and they are now assisting with our inquiries,” Acting Assistant Commissioner Paul Dunstan said.

“I can further confirm we are aware of a further three or four young people who were present during the fire.

“We ask them to come forward with their parents and put their side of the story forward.”

BUILDING FIRE SITE
The fire caused extensive damage to the building on Thursday and sent tonnes of bricks flying down onto the street. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Nikki Short
The building collapses after the fire took hold. Picture: Dean Lewins/AAP
The building collapses after the fire took hold. Picture: Dean Lewins/AAP
The street facing wall collapses onto Randle St, Surry Hills. Picture: Dean Lewins/AAP
The street facing wall collapses onto Randle St, Surry Hills. Picture: Dean Lewins/AAP
Onlookers said the collapse “shook the ground.” Picture: Dean Lewins/AAP
Onlookers said the collapse “shook the ground.” Picture: Dean Lewins/AAP

The reinvigoration of the former hat factory was due to cost the owners, Hanave Pty Limited, about $40m.

“The New Hotel in Randle Street transforms the handsome Henderson Hat manufacturing warehouse building into a vibrant hotel,” the architecture firm’s website says of the project.

“Guests are protected by means of room orientation, window location, furniture layout, and – at the most exposed face of the building – an impressive cladded screen.”

Plans included turning the building into a 123-room hotel, two restaurants, a small bar and a cafe.

According to the application listing on the City of Sydney website, the development was granted initial approval in 2020 and would have also included neighbouring addresses 7-9 and 15 Randle Street.

The hat hotel that went up in a blaze. Picture Architect 4.png
An artist’s impression of the proposed development. Picture: Tonkin Zulaikha Greer architects
BUILDING FIRE SITE
Police are investigating after two 13-year-old children handed themselves in. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Nikki Short

However, photographs taken at the scene on Friday show the building a world away from the glitzy future once imagined for it.

The building, which will need to be demolished for safety reasons, has been gutted by the ferocious blaze. Several exterior walls are also missing, with firefighters concerned the final wall could come down at any moment, sending tonnes of bricks flying onto the street.

The road is completely blocked by the rubble of the building, with bricks covering every inch of bitumen, and leaving a ute that had been parked on the street at the time of the fire barely visible.

The hat hotel that went up in a blaze. Picture Architect 4.png
Plans for the Hat Hotel designed by architecture firm Tonkin Zulaikha Greer. Picture: Tonkin Zulaikha Greer architects
The hat hotel that went up in a blaze. Picture Architect 4.png
Architect Tim Greer said the building was about to sign on a building contract. Picture: Tonkin Zulaikha Greer architects

Local Surry Hills architecture firm Tonkin Zulaikha Greer designed the project which was submitted for development approval in 2019.

Tim Greer, the architect behind the design told The Daily Telegraph that “construction was imminent” before the fire ripped through the building on Thursday.

“I’m still processing what happened, as we designed a beautiful hotel for this site, and were very much looking forward to seeing it built,” he said. “Looks like that won’t happen.”

He said the project had progressed to the stage of seeking out a building contract.