One of Canberra’s iconic landmarks, the Rydges Lakeside hotel, will close a chapter in Canberra's history when it relaunches as a designer hotel on April 3.
The ageing hotel, once the hub of Canberra’s social calendar, is undergoing a renovation in excess of $6 million and will become the latest offering of designer hotel group QT Hotel and Resorts.
The group has made a name for itself by refurbishing hotels and embracing new technology, distinctive art and cutting edge design.
A QT Hotels and Resorts spokesman said the hotel would be reinvented as part of the New Acton cultural precinct but it would still pay homage to the heritage of the Lakeside hotel.
“We aim to create a unique personality in each of our hotels,” the spokesman said. “We like to build an ethos around a hotel and take our cues from where the hotel is located – a nod back to the history of the area."
The renovation includes refurbishing 205 rooms, launching three restaurants and bars and revamping the hotel’s dated exterior.
The spokesman said the hotel would remain under the management of Paul Scott who had been running the Lakeside for several years.
The majority of staff would be retained although some specialist members would be recruited such as QT's creative food director Robert Marchetti.
Under the direction of designer Nic Graham, the hotel will provide exclusive retreats, secret rooms, private hallways and historical artefacts that reference political back-room deals once made at the Lakeside.
But the reinvention of the hotel also means the end of an establishment engrained in the memories of many Canberrans.
Canberra CBD chairman Manny Notaras recalled booking the Lakeside to accommodate Chuck Berry and Leo Sayer during his time as a music promoter in the early 1970s.
“The Lakeside was the social focal point of the city during the 1970s and the early 1980s,” he said. “It was the go-to place when you needed to host a party or conference.”
He remembered the days when “the Lakeside used to be heavily patronised by locals who regularly made use of the numerous bars on the ground floor”.
But Mr Notaras said the hotel slid from prominence in Canberra and he hoped it would be reinvented.
“The hotel was certainly an iconic establishment in its day but as other hotels appeared in the late 1980s the Lakeside began to lose its dominance in Canberra,” he said.
While the New Acton precinct has transformed the area with galleries and landscaped gardens, he said the incoming management should treat the precinct as an asset rather than a potential competitor.
“People who stayed at the hotel a few years ago, before the New Acton precinct was launched, had to walk for kilometres to visit coffee shops and galleries,” he said. “Now they can just walk out the door of the hotel.”
QT Hotel and Resorts is owned by Amalgamated Holdings Limited, which also owns Rydges Hotels.
The hotel will be QT’s first offering in Canberra. It also has hotels in Sydney, Falls Creek, Port Douglas and the Gold Coast. The group plans to expand to Melbourne and Perth.