Monday, 12 November 2012

New Horizons

New Horizons

 Jazz was settled into his  final years at St Josephs College. Over the next three years I was retained for several short term consulting jobs by different groups in Sydney and a concept for the Sheraton Hotel in Beijing of a brewery pub.

Bob Lapointe retained me  to help co ordinate an 'Enterpise Barganing Agreement' for the Lone Star Steakhouse Saloons, one of the many franchises he had brought to Australia. The agreement was about negotiating effective determination of principles, reasons and bargaining between staff and management.

Following on from that I project managed the fit out of Sydney's oldest 'gay' cafe. "The Californian" in Oxford Street,  a long narrow property,which was about four shops towards the city, from Taylor Square. This place was a squalid hole before the make over. It was dark, dingy, dismal, filthy and full of junkies. A psychiatrist from Canberra had taken over the lease and Susie Green came up with the design input and recommended that I carry out the brief. After council approvals and loads of rubbish, dirty syringes and a cesspool of junk was removed from the site.We then  re imaged and relaunched a sparkling new "Californian" to  Sydney's gay market.

Consulting work pays well when your working, but there are long periods sometimes when there's no work and your living off your capital, which is what used to piss me off with working for yourself. Then I'm not good at working for a boss.

My last project in the hospitality arena was for David Burger of City Freeholds P/L who owned Mid City Center in George Street, Sydney and the next door property, 416 George Street.I was retained to prepare a feasibility report on licensing the, basement and lower ground floor of the property.  A space of 1000 square meters into a middle market multi functionary licensed premises for food,beverages and gaming.

This was a two staged project. If David Burger liked what i proposed for stage1 then we would proceed to stage 2. Stage 2  was to include the ground floor level and first floor level conversion of the property into an integrated form of licensed bars and restaurants with access into Mid City Center.

I assembled a group of consultants including a licensing lawyer Kim Stapleton who summarised the application process to obtain a Hoteliers License.

In October 1998 the considered price for a liquor license from one source was; be it granted by the court or puchased was between $400 - $450,000 for the CBD area of Sydney.According to Hotel Brokers $700,000 was nearer to the price.

A Town Planner was retained  and a critical path, for development consent, building approval, certification as a place of public entertainment from Sydney City Council, was developed.

Researching and documentation of the marketplace :  Down Market Hotels,Mid Market and Up Market Pubs in a five block radius, in all eighteen hotels/pubs.The findings covered price  points, trading hours weather they had entertainment,  type of food, service, estimation of gaming revenue from poker machines.This was all laid in out in spreadsheets.

 I provided the concept and drawings on how the lower ground floor space would be converted into three distinct areas for trading :

  1. The Main Bar and Lounge.
  2. Dining Room, Oyster Bar and Grill.
  3. Gaming room with Poker and card machines.
This was accompanied with a brief on interior planning, mood and ambience and preliminary construction estimate which came out at $4million.

Followed by an operational overview and entertainment concept for a cabaret lounge for , lunch and evening operations.

An income overview was estimated for a 95 hour trading week, broken down into food and liquor, lunch and dinner, bar evening trade and gaming totaling $90,000 per week with annual turn- over of  $5 million with a net profit of $1million.

These findings were presented to the directors who then asked me to continue with the second stage. 

As mentioned the second stage was to be over the four levels ; basement,lower ground floor,ground level and level one.

My conception was, as a  multi level complex with architectural drawings by architect Renato Ius, that define the integration of four levels, into a functional complex designed as a stylish day/night club in the center of the CBD similar to what is available in New York, London, Berlin or Rio de Janeiro.With a large balcony veranda with with weather canopy that would be punched out over George Street catering to outdoor dinning in the middle of the CBD.

The Complex:
  • Basement : storage, staff quarters, coolroom and laundry
  • Lower ground: Cabaret Lounge Bar & Games Room
  • Ground Level: Martini Bar Cafe
  • Mezzanine : Coffee Lounge
  • First Floor : Restaurant 'Noodles & Pasta'
In total the area for make over was 2500 square meters.

A review of these facilities was prepared into a fifty page report with drawings and images outlining their operations, description of services with projected: weekly income, profit and loss for each facility and a combined total income for for the complex being $10 million per annum, with a net profit of $2 million.

Entertainment was a large component of the cabaret lounge, with the philosophy behind the entertainment concept to be 'Discovery'. The venue to be marketed as a Talent House.

Construction and fit out costs were estimated by the quantity surveyors at $6 million with pre opening cost another $1million.

The final submission of stage two was not proceeded with, I never knew if they considered the concept to lavish or to ahead of it's time. Maybe their management was not up to the task.It was always a stop gap measure. They always intended to develop the site, when the economic climate was more welcoming, increase the floor levels which has subsequently happened. A pity they did not proceed as the "Establishment" and the "Ivy " also multi functional complexes which opened years later,have been very succesful and they cost a lot more than this concept.

I thought that re inventing myself  was in order I had been in the hospitality arena for thirty years.  I saw and advertisement in the Australian Newspaper, for a National Marketing Manager for an Art Company called Di Emme Creative Solutions. After a few interviews I was successful and commenced work as a full time paid employed person with a nine to five job. I had 'nt had one of these since working for the Australian Consulate in San Francisco back in the sixties.

Di Emme had a full time staff of ten, most with artistic or industrial design backgrounds and access to further  art based sub contractors. They worked in conjunction with  the design and construction industry  in creating architectural features, special finishes,wall and ceiling treatments,three dimensional urban art, custom made lights and other services for  shopping centres, clubs, hotels nationally and internationally.

I was with this group for six years promoting their services to commercial architects nationally. Large developers such as Westfield, Lend Lease, Mirvac, Multiplex  used the expertise of this group to create features within their developments that gave them a point of difference. They may be water features, special finishes on walls or ceiling that created the wow factor.Their industrial designers have designed some sensational lighting installations. 

For a small group they had accumulated a large folio of works and are well respected in the design construction industry.They are continuously developing new finishes and services to supply to architects and interior designers. Their library of several thousand finishes in gold and silver leaf, plaster, stucco, metallics has been developed over many years and is a wonderful accomplishment.

My weeks, months, years were spent organizing appointments and presenting to architects and interior designers, who used these services for their clients projects. It was a matter of showing images of recent projects completed, finding out what projects they were working on or had in the pipeline and to see if there was any scope for what Di Emme offered. Often supplying samples or fabricating a prototype for which they would be charged. I would average 15 presentations a week, over 700 a year. I travelled interstate often to Melbourne and Brisbane and was successful in obtaining  work with most of the commercial design groups on the eastern seaboard.

One of the larger contract i was responsible for gaining for them was a large scope of interior works, in the rebuild of the Canterbury Bankstown Legues Club (Bulldogs).Working with the architects,Altis Architects. We were responsible for the design and fabrication of  the many different custom lights, special plaster wall finishes, faux stone and signage and 3d artworks.This project became one of their signature projects, leading to several more hospitality projects.

As with mossmall family owned companies opportunity for advancement and salary increase was limited. After the six year period that  I was there, my enthusiasm for working for them was declining, so was theirs for me, so we parted company.

Whilst there I became acquainted with a similar group from Melbourne who I had some contact with, called  Mothers Art (MA). They were an art cooperative that specialised in interpretive design for national parks and creating and  building temporary and permanent exhibitions for  museums and zoos in Australia.

I approached them with a proposal to work for them as their Sydney marketing consultant.They  did not have a Sydney representative and were constantly flying up  from Melbourne I proposed an hourly rate,  capped weekly , plus a 2.5% commmission on all work I brought in,They were aware of  my track record as I had been successful in the past,  winning tenders against them.

At the time I approached them, they were tendering against Di Emme, for  a $1.5 million contract to design and fabricate the 3D section of 'the Great Southern Ocean Precinct' at Taronga Zoo.I had a stong argument for us to join forces. Due to my relationship with Reed Constructions, who had recently been awarded the zoo project to project manager and construct and were now on the site, as the project managers. 

Once we settled on a deal, I lobbied Reed on MA submission. They were inclined towards Di Emme, as they were Sydney based and I had done a good job on promoting them to Reed Constructions. Now I had to change tack and allegenges to convince Reed that Mothers Art even though in Melbourne, would be more efficient and capable of performing.

We flew their manager to Melbourne to inspect the premises and capabilities of MA, which were superior to Di Emmes.They had a larger 'art force' and industrial design department were  technically  more advanced. After the inspection and   Mothers Art  retaining me as their Sydney representative, some pencil sharpening.Added to this,Ian Bracegirdle  one of the directors of MA, who was also a teacher in sculpturing and design  at RMITwas going to project manage the works.

All these factors were  influences that persuaded Reed Constructions  to grant the contract  to Mothers Art.

This was a much more suitable arrangement for me as a single parent.As my time was my own, again. Financially I was working a third of the hours and earning nearly two half times as much and being my own boss.How I stuck at the other place for so long still bewilders me, having a son at a high profile boarding school I suppose makes you suck eggs.

I was effective in winning considerable business for Mothers Art over the four year period I was with them. 

We worked with Lend Lease on their Rouse Hill development,Constructed in Sydney's  ever increasing populated north west corridoor. This was the largest urban planned town square developed for a considerable time.Including; transport terminials, shopping centres, underground parking and medium density housing and apartment living, municipal offices, libraries and  office buildings. Over a six month period we  designed, researched and developed a striking graphics package that  interpreted the sites history from the days of indigenous habitation and early settlers to modern times.These graphics, illustrated in a contemporary form were laser printed in colour on light steel  panels.These panels which were  2m high in full colour, were installed and stretched along  the walls  either side of the four travelators, (people movers) that carried people from the four car parks underneath the development.

Then there were contracts and success with works for Sydney Wildlife World. A new adventure walk through zoo and animal habitat, constructed in a purpose built complex next to Sydney Aquarium at Darling Harbour. Here we built interactive displays with educational illustrated storyboards.Themed their entrance and walkways through the animal habitats   with a cohesive indigenous artwork which was sub contracted to a local mob which we project managed and had executed.

Other successes and exhibitions were completed for the South Australian Museum where we designed, fabricated and installed the 'Biodiversity Exhibition and Gallery'.This was an insight into the biological process and investigating ecosystems.

Another was the 'Enchanted Rainforest Exhibition' for the  Museum of Tropical Queensland.An interactive understorey that highlights smaller rainforest inhabitants to a rainforest makeup and rainforest dream time storeys.

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