SYDNEY'S Haymarket area is to undergo a major facelift as part of the $1.5 billion revamp of the nearby Convention and Exhibition Centre and its surrounds.
What was considered a neglected area by property investors and developers for many years is undergoing a renaissance.
To boost its popularity as a destination, not just for a late-night meal, the Citigate Central Sydney Hotel in Thomas Street is now being rebranded to the four-star Novotel group and undergoing a major refurbishment and upgrade. It comes as the Sydney hotel market is placed under pressure from limited supply and rising demand.
In particular, there has been a dramatic jump in the number of Chinese tourists, who may be attracted to Sydney's Chinatown and Haymarket district.
The announcement comes as the area undergoes a significant redevelopment, led by architect Frank Gehry's $125 million business building for the University of Technology, Sydney.
There is also a $280 million retail and residential complex called The Quay, which will comprise 270 apartments in two towers, in a block bordered by Thomas and Quay streets. The Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority is contributing, with a plan to convert a disused stretch of railway track into the goods line that will link Ultimo and Haymarket to Darling Harbour.
The chief operating officer at Accor Pacific, Simon McGrath, said his company regarded the rebranding of the Citigate hotel to Novotel as a significant part of its future Sydney strategy.
''The NSW government has announced the most substantial infrastructure project for the city in decades with the redevelopment of the Darling Harbour Convention and Exhibition precinct, and the Novotel - along with our other two Novotels in the area - are ideally placed to benefit from the upgrade to the area,'' Mr McGrath said.
''The Haymarket area is becoming an important commercial, residential and entertainment precinct, and with land in such short supply in the CBD area, the upgrade of the former Citigate to Novotel represents a very astute decision by the owners, Ascendas.
''Within a few years the whole area will be transformed and will represent one of the most profound urban redevelopment programs in Sydney's recent history.''
Lend Lease has plans to build a 900-room hotel as part of the redevelopment of the convention and exhibition centre.
Once completed, it will be billed as the largest in the country. There is speculation that during its construction, Lend Lease could look to sell down its share, as it does with other developments, and use the funds for new projects. No operator has been named for the hotel, but industry experts say it will be a fillip for the five-star sector.
At the other end of Darling Harbour, Crown, led by James Packer, has plans to build the country's first six-star hotel.
Plans for the site, at Barangaroo South, also include a high-rollers' casino.