Thanks to Mark for allowing me to publish, online, the first Un PC column which appears in today’s issue of Your Cambridge News; Friday the 21st of November 2008.
Welcome to our new editorial contributor, known only as Un PC. Its part satire, community comment, community observation, fact, tongue in check, investigatory reporting, and more! To start off, enjoy this excellent and thought provoking piece on our beloved and now decrepit National Hotel –
Mark Nogaj, Publisher.
ARE WE BEING FOOLED?
How national is the National? Does this portend a building of sufficiency of national interest that it should be preserved as one of the country’s architectural and historical gems? Or is it – as appears to be the case currently – a sad reflection of the inability of the development industry to give back to Cambridge what it rightly expects? That the historically preserved walls (and strange colour scheme) should surround a hotel with fare, refreshment and suitable accommodation rooms for hire by the discerning traveler?
Or is it part of an unbalanced appendage to a highly ugly – and very much part tenanted – ‘retail’ centre that appears to be struggling to get off the ground? Will ‘Michelle’s Patisserie’ ever appear as the sign has promised for many months? And will the empty large, and visually intrusive, building above remain intended for a short term come-and-go retail tenant or can it be considered for another use? As a conference centre adjunct to a worthy and welcoming hotel for instance.
Whatever it currently is – unless Cambridge Inc makes a concerted stand it will highly likely fall into the hands of some distant (for which read the Queen City) developer intent on a fast buck and with ne’er a thought for history, aesthetic balance with the adjacent Town Hall and Cenotaph nor the ability and capability to enhance tourism. For Cambridge lacks that boutique type of hotel that would not only benefit the town but create a demand for those to whom a motel is a bland, one night driven experience bereft of soft linen, chocolates on the pillow and a restaurant that brings back gastronomic memories creating a desire for return visits.
Such a hotel is the natural middle ground between the good motels that Cambridge hosts and the local ‘lodge’ type facilities where bed rates and dinner tables reflect the needs and wishes of mainly overseas tourists intent on a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Or if that does not find a market perhaps a ‘family’ type establishment?
It is always easy to blame a ‘distant’ developer who some may feel has scant thought for local history and a desire to maintain a certain degree of charm in the town. And it is only fair that the developer should have their say. And in that light of fairness we can report that the developer has used sub-developer who then used a local well respected building company. And they took on some ‘subbies’. Council rules changed – adding further cost and, apparently after that, matters went somewhat downhill.
The subsequent waters appear rather muddied. Surely we do not have yet another sad story related to – or at the very least – similar to the never-ending saga of the possibly ill-named ‘Wellness” centre. Is the National another story of developers sucking in local builders and their hard working craftsmen sub-contractors? And to what extent should the Waipa District Council play a responsible and caring role? For Us the People are looking sideways at a number of northern Cambridge developments where the carbon footprint is expanded daily when a car has to be used to find a carton of milk. Where land on the other side of the town intriguingly hinting at views of the river – beautifully laid out with roads, sewage and street lights – lies, many months later, without any timber either flat on the ground let alone erected.
We have very good reason to believe that there will not be any accommodation in the final version of the National Hotel – and clearly as it will not be a hotel what does it become? Another booze barn – or a facility of which this historic town can be rightly proud?
Clearly there are diverse views with blame passing both ways. Progress could be made should an independent moderator be appointed to bring all the parties together. Perhaps the Chamber of Commerce can take that role. Any further delay will see another Summer of income not materializing. Or will we be writing a similar article one year from now?