First look at expansion of iconic Commonwealth Hotel

07 September 2022

The exciting Nicholas Street Precinct is largely about the new – cafes, fast-food stores, bars, restaurants and retail shops - but there is an old gem hidden in this newly developed area, the century-old Commonwealth Hotel.

Here is your first chance to see what it will look like, circa 2023, when it officially reopens its restored doors to patrons.

Ipswich Central Redevelopment Committee Chairperson Councillor Marnie Doyle said council was excited to unveil the first fly-through video of the Commonwealth Hotel and what it is expected to look like in just over a year’s time after Hutchinson Builders finish the expansion construction.

“The Commonwealth Hotel has been meticulously restored by council to preserve its heritage character and the forthcoming extension of the hotel will transform the site into a state-of-the-art dining and entertainment hub,” Councillor Doyle said.

“The Commonwealth Hotel, also known as Murphy’s Pub, was built in 1910 and extensive plans for the redevelopment include indoor and outdoor dining, a feature cocktail bar, beer garden and function rooms, while keeping its classic and authentic persona at its core.”

Ipswich Mayor Teresa Harding said council was delighted to restore the heritage icon to the CBD and was proud to show it off to the Queensland Heritage Council when they visited Ipswich this week, in a tour hosted by Councillor Doyle as a member.

“Our specialist engineers, architects and tradesmen understood what the Commonwealth Hotel means to Ipswich and welcomed every minute of working on the old pub and putting it back together,” Mayor Harding said.

“One hundred and twelve years after the local architect Henry Wyman built the hotel, it has been fantastic to see the façade restored with original bricks, floorboards and beautiful stain glass windows.

“Now we are ready for the next stage and it is exciting to see what it will look like on this video.

“Council is committed to finishing the job at the Commonwealth Hotel and bringing the community back into this wonderful space.”

Council acquired the Commonwealth Hotel in 2014 and began repairs after subsidence and significant cracking in the building’s façade and its partial collapse, which made the building uninhabitable.

To ensure that the building could be repaired, and to prevent further disintegration to the original components, the building was carefully deconstructed with the pieces stored offsite in a council depot to be restored and repaired.

It has slowly been restored to its former glory and returned to life. The restoration has included 20,000 recycled bricks and 22,000 new bricks.

However, it will require the extension to make it viable as a modern-day drinking spot.

Councillor Doyle said the hotel will act as an anchor for the precinct and drive additional interest right across the redeveloped Ipswich Central area.

“AusHotels, which runs the Orion Hotel at Springfield Central, recently signed on as operator of the iconic hotel,” Cr Doyle said.

“We have watched this grand building being brought back to life and with AusHotels coming on board, we are now assured the future of the site has been secured.”

Cr Doyle said the completion of restoration works was a milestone that celebrates the Commonwealth Hotel as a notable part of the history of Ipswich and she looked forward to designs coming off the drawing board for the expansion.

“It will blend the old with the new. We expect a seamless transition from the tavern of old to this new favourite watering hole. Council is committed to preserving the city’s heritage whenever possible,” Cr Doyle said.

“Throughout this project, council’s heritage advisor, a local specialist architect and project engineers worked closely to help ensure that important knowledge about the hotel guided and informed its reconstruction and we are very pleased with the results.

“In my younger years, this pub was a live music venue and I have great memories of it overflowing with excitement and energy and I am delighted it has been restored to its former glory.

“Within the new Nicholas Street Precinct, the Commonwealth Hotel tells a story of our past and will be surrounded by new and advanced buildings that speak to our future.

“The reopened hotel will draw more people to the precinct and bolster future trade.

“Importantly, it will help reactivate the night-time economy in the Nicholas Street Precinct and complement the precinct’s other new offerings.”

Council agreed last week to fund the Commonwealth Hotel expansion, with work expected to start in October and be completed for opening at Christmas 2023.