Landcom to buy into city centre

THE redevelopment of Newcastle’s ailing Hunter Street mall precinct is firmly back on the agenda with the state government striking a major deal with the GPT Group to buy two-thirds of its remaining city centre holdings.

Newcastle MP Tim Owen will announce today the government development agency Landcom and the GPT Group will also enter into an agreement to redevelop four city blocks into a mix of residential, niche commercial and specialty retail users.

The developer would retain a third of its properties and work with Landcom to draw up a detailed plan for the project.

It comes about three years after GPT walked away from a $600million plan to rejuvenate the central business district amid the global financial downturn, while citing the former Labor Government’s failure to commit to plans for the city including the future of the rail line.

The agreement is expected to be signed today when details of the deal are likely to be made public. The deal is understood to have been struck after about seven months of negotiations.

Mr Owen, who has been involved in the talks, described the agreement as an ‘‘excellent outcome’’ and the first step in the city’s rejuvenation as well as one that would serve as a catalyst for further investment.

‘‘This project is of such complexity that it requires significant co-ordination,’’ Mr Owen said.

‘‘Intervention by government is the only way to make it happen.’’

Planning Minister Brad Hazzard said the project was ideal for Landcom as it moved into its new role as ‘‘Urbangrowth NSW’’, a change unveiled in last week’s state budget.

The new organisation would drive investment and housing in key areas and fast-track urban renewal.

‘‘This project presents a great opportunity for Newcastle and is not just of state, but national importance,’’ Mr Hazzard said.

GPT Group chief executive Michael Cameron said it would support Landcom in its goals for Newcastle.

‘‘The failure of previous governments to commit to significant infrastructure in Newcastle restricted GPT from delivering its proposed development scheme in 2009, leading GPT to redirect its resources into other opportunities,’’ Mr Cameron said.

The two companies would work together to generate third party investment as well as address infrastructure issues.

Mr Owen said the government was still considering the future of the rail line as part of broader plans for the city centre, and no decision had yet been made.

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