Maurice Terzini lured for InterContinental hotel makeover as Double Bay rocks again

Intercontinental Sydney Double Bay - lobby

Paul Fridman is planning a big spruce up of the service levels as well as immediate changes to the 140-room hotel’s soft furnishings, artwork and lighting.

Fresh from his surprise $178m acquisition of Double Bay’s dowager InterContinental hotel, developer Paul Fridman has lured top restaurateur Maurice Terzini of Bondi’s Icebergs to take control of the hotel’s food and beverage department.

“We have a view on hotels that need love and in the first instance to bring in an operator like Maurice Terzini will bring back the decadence this hotel should have and its grandeur,” Mr Fridman told The Australian in an exclusive interview.

“It’s the only hotel of quality in (Sydney’s) east, it has a rich, eclectic history, it’s got a depth of character and its evolution (should be) decadent, grandeur and take pride of its position and place.

“You bring a Maurice Terzini in, you bring the dynamism back. I have to bring the dynamism back.”

Although he would not divulge how much he would outlay improving the 140-room hotel, Mr Fridman was planning a big spruce up of the service levels as well as immediate changes to its soft furnishings, artwork and lighting. After negotiations with the vendor, a Chinese private equity group, the deal, which had been in the wings since May, finally settled on Friday night.

“We will also increase staff numbers in the coming months to further enhance the first class service offering,” Mr Fridman said.

Just prior to the settlement of the purchase of the 140-room InterContinental Hotel in Cross Street, Double Bay, Mr Fridman revealed his grand plans for the once world famous hotel which in its glory days hosted celebrities such as Princess Diana. A year later in 1997 Michael Hutchence was found dead in one of the hotel’s rooms. The hotel also hosted Sir Elton John and Madonna when it was then known as the Ritz-Carlton.

Intercontinental Sydney Double Bay - rooftop

The rooftop pool at the InterContinental comes with stunning views.

On the vexed question of whether the hotel which he has bought in a 50-50 joint venture with apartment developer and builder Piety Group, will be converted into apartments, Mr Fridman, a veteran apartment developer, is still tossing this idea around.

Of appeal is the fact that from level two of the hotel there is a 60 metres span of uninterrupted views of Sydney Harbour as well as 200 existing carparking slots – 156 of which are underground.

But he was adamant that he had to bring the dynamism back to the Inter-Continental.

“I hate to use the word iconic, but it’s an iconic property,” he declared.

Mr Fridman, founder of Fridcorp, is also venturing into the difficult realm of private hospital development on two Melbourne sites, while in Sydney he is in due diligence on a second major hotel, hot on the heels of his Double Bay purchase.

He has more than $2.5bn worth of diversified projects on his books including major apartment towers in Sydney’s suburban Hurstville to boutique developments in Melbourne’s Bentleigh. Breaking his longstanding media silence Mr Fridman said he was building two private hospitals in Melbourne’s Clayton and Monash where he is dealing with Allied Health Group.

“We took a residential market view a few years ago not to be too reliant on residential, especially in Melbourne.

“We sold quite a few sites. I felt that in 2017 the market was at a peak where things were not making sense, it was very difficult to stay out of it, (but) we did not buy a site for three years.

“We are building a lot in the first quarter of next year, we have four buildings going ahead ranging from private hospitals, to refurbishments of hotels, to townhouses and boutique apartments near Caulfield Park.

“I believe in the town house market because they appeal to the second and third homebuyer, people move up a gear in wages and salaries and townhouses are of more appeal to that market.

“I believe strongly in the right-sizer market not the downsizer market. The idea is not to do a larger apartment development in Melbourne but in Sydney we are comfortable to go with a higher density development in the right areas,” said Mr Fridman, adding that he has attracted joint venture partners on most of his projects.

Intercontinental Sydney Double Bay - exterior

Says developer Paul Fridman: ‘You bring a Maurice Terzini in, you bring the dynamism back. I have to bring the dynamism back.’

In Sydney, stage one of his 580-unit Hurstville project, called Beyond, will be completed by the year’s end.

“Stage one is basically sold out … it probably only has 12 units left.

The retail aspect has been incredible … and we have tenants you would not expect in the area but have been drawn to the design quality of the buildings and the vision of Beyond, this is a huge development we have done on our own.”

Mr Fridman revealed he was in exclusive due diligence on a second major Sydney hotel, not as big as his Double Bay property but not too dissimilar.

Back at the InterContinental. he said the hotel had not been given any love for several years. “We have got to bring back its character … we are trying to get back to the quality.

“We have something I feel obliged to deliver on. I am a big believer in the Sydney market, because you just can’t create land.’’

Mr Fridman will update the hotel’s outdated furniture and add to the service offering in the rooms by providing pre-mixed cocktails, detox drinks and facial masks.

“Maurice Terzini is working collectively on the food and beverage, implementing his concepts and ideas and I see us giving him a platform to be creative and implement the right direction and bring back the nostalgia of the hotel.”

He was happy the hotel was now back in Australian hands. He purchased it from Shanghai United.

“I have a lot of anxiety about it … it’s really important to get the decadence and the beauty of this hotel and character, it is deep with character.”

From his bird’s eye view in Melbourne, Mr Fridman reckoned Sydney’s Double Bay was “going off”.

“Prices per square metre are dramatically increasing. Double Bay has evolved incredibly over the past 24 months.”