As the Council-ordered demolition gets underway on the now fire-destroyed Commercial Hotel building, developer Andrew Turnbull has spoken to the Yass Valley Times about his initial plans for the building, as well as his reaction to the fire, and comments on the connections he and other community members had to the building and its history.


“I was actually away on work at a conference in Edinburgh, and I started receiving phone calls within two or three hours of the fire. People had rung to advise me that a fire had occurred, they didn’t have many details of it, it was a fairly significant event”, said Andrew on finding out about the Commercial Hotel fire. 

Commercial Hotel demolition underway June 8, 2023, Photo credit Gail Reid

Describing his reactions and feelings on the matter, Andrew noted his disappointment, especially when factoring in the redevelopment plans. 

Commercial Hotel – photo credit NSWRFS

“I was gutted. I suppose I was quite aspirational about what we were hoping to build there and excited to revitalise the main street of Yass with something that was going to be special, we spent a lot of time and effort that had gone into it and it all went up in smoke.”

“We’re completely shattered on the basis that we’ve been working with the Council to develop a DA which was very sympathetic to maintaining the heritage and historical nature of the building, and as such the engagement of design and all the back ends in relation to development approval has been based on maintaining the existing structure. As a result of the fire, it’s basically torn up all that money and put us back to square one.”


On financial challenges, Andrew noted that insuring a building that had become derelict in its abandonment had become difficult and expensive, meaning the building went uninsured during the fire, and that all expenses to date developing the building have become obsolete. 


For those curious about what plans were originally in place, and what the building could have looked like had the fire not destroyed much of it, Andrew revealed that he intended to honour the Hotel’s history by keeping much of the building and returning it to life. 


“We were keen to bring back the food and beverage offering, we weren’t going down the gaming route, we were going down a strong food and beverage and a tourist attraction, that was our goal”, said Andrew, expanding further

“After the engineers detailed review and preliminary work we were quite excited we could keep a larger amount of the existing building, initially it was just looking at the bones, not the entirety. The journey we’ve been on is that we got excited because what we had was a lot more valuable than we thought, but now it doesn’t exist”. 

Commercial Hotel iconic champagne glass sign craned to safety-still photo taken from video – Barry O’Mara Yass Notice board

Outside of business and financial losses, Andrew notes the connection many had to the building and its history and the cultural loss Yass has now experienced.

Commercial hotel developer- Andrew Turnball

 “It’s quite amazing the connection a venue like that has had with the community in terms of all the stories and the personal experiences that people associated with the building. It’s very disappointing and emotional outside of the scope of just the financial aspects of it, because we were pretty excited about the opportunities that we were looking at in revitalising something old, to bring it into the new”, said Andrew. 


Andrew praised the efforts of the response teams and fire brigades in controlling the fire and is thankful the damage didn’t extend to any other businesses or result in any injuries or deaths. 

The Commercial Hotel fire aftermath: Photo credit Jasmin Jones


 “We’re extremely thankful for the response from the fire brigade because of the time of day, the biggest risk was spreading beyond the scope of just the building, it would have been tragic. It was a major relief to me there was no loss of life or no one was injured because it would have been a tragedy. It’s bad enough as just property loss, but if there was a loss of life it would have been a complete tragedy”, said Andrew. 


Griffin Palen