Mooloolaba: The Club eatery site, subject to a 5 star hotel development application by Aria that is currently on hold.
Mooloolaba: The Club eatery site, subject to a 5 star hotel development application by Aria that is currently on hold. John McCutcheon

Does Mooloolaba site have a five-star future?

GLIDE up in your BMW to the five-star hotel being designed by Aria Property Group for the site opposite The Surf Club, Mooloolaba, and you'll be greeted by a doorman who takes your bags while your car's parked for you.

From the lobby where you check in, enjoy a view of Mooloolaba Beach, with parkland and a public plaza in the foreground.

A 24-hour concierge service, bars, pools, rooftop clubs, restaurants and a resort-level offering where rooms are cleaned daily and "if you want room service at two o'clock in the morning", you get it.

This vision may change, but it's a taste of what Aria will build if the Sunshine Coast Planning Scheme height restrictions are increased to 50m above sea level (47.5m above natural ground level) at the site: a multi-million-dollar high-rise, luxury hotel suitable for corporate guests, conferences and the high-end travel market.

Aria Property Group managing director Tim Forrester said the proposed planning scheme changes for the site referred to in Sunshine Coast Council documents as Club Eatery would make it financially viable for a five-star hotel to be built.

Aria had earlier proposed a mixed-use unit and retail development with some but not all features of a five-star hotel, but withdrew this development application in January, before the March 2016 local government election.

"The cost to construct a five-star international hotel isn't just 30-40% more, it's up to 80% more to construct something of that quality," Mr Forrester said.

"That's what the additional height gives us the ability to do."

But not everyone swoons at this sales pitch.

Mooloolaba Spit Protection Association (SPA) says Aria's proposal for the Club Eatery site would degrade the area, setting a precedent for future high-rises that would overshadow the beach.

"Whilst you might say the Club Eatery is just a few metres higher, it's actually not," SPA president Anna Neep said.

"It's going to stick out like a sore thumb right into the sky."

Ms Neep said the changes would set a precedent for other developments in Mooloolaba, including The Wharf, which changed hands last year.

"People will use that as a benchmark," she said.

"Essentially, what's going to happen if this is allowed is you're going to change the face of Mooloolaba, and it's going to look and feel like the Gold Coast.

"I don't think people realise what the repercussions are. It's about a slow creep that sets in."

Aria is not the first group to propose development at the rundown site, which currently hosts an eclectic mix of businesses from restaurants and cafes to clothing shops.

"The reason you haven't seen it for 30 years is it's not financially viable to do it unless you get the extra height," Mr Forrester said.

Ms Neep and fellow SPA member Martin Neep said they doubted whether tourists seeking an exclusive five-star experience would choose a Mooloolaba site "with views of a public toilet and a caravan park" over more secluded, exclusive options.

While Aria is known for its transformation of a "derelict laneway" into the award-winning Austin residential building in Brisbane's Fish Lane, among other projects, the developer has never built a five-star hotel.

But Mr Forrester is confident that with the Sunshine Coast Airport expansion and other major projects that will draw visitors to the Coast, the demand for modern, luxury accommodation will only grow.

"Personally, I may be biased but I think Mooloolaba is one of the greatest beaches in Australia," Mr Forrester said.

"I do think it's on par with Noosa and Bondi."

A hotel group had not yet been secured but Accor, which owns Sofitel in Noosa, was one of four Aria had discussed a potential partnership with, Mr Forrester said.

He said the timing for an international-level hotel offering in Mooloolaba was good, with two new hotels set to open in Brisbane over the next four of five years and likely to look for "sister hotels" by the beach.

"We think if we can do the project properly where we can do the stunning rooftop club and the food and beverage, we think we can bring something very special," he said.

"I think it's a really opportune time - there hasn't been a five-star hotel in Brisbane since the Marriott. Now you're seeing a heap of them and they're all opening by 2020."

While public submissions on the planning scheme amendments are yet to be counted by Sunshine Coast Council, more than 1200 individual submissions opposing the changes were collected by the Spit Protection Association and submissions in favour included those from local businesses as well as local, state and national business and tourism associations representing a combined membership of more than 14,000.

Tourism and Events Queensland, Sunshine Coast Sports Federation and the Property Council of Australia are among organisations to voice their support in submissions viewed by the Daily.

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