The new owner of two former Newcastle City Council car parks has ambitious plans to improve their performance and to top them with office space.
Valentine businessman and offshore power-boat racer Darren Nicholson, brother of dual Olympian sailor Chris Nicholson, is a former carpenter as well as a self-described ‘‘third generation BHP worker’’.
His Tuggerah-based business, Lake Maintenance, has 150 employees and about 3000 contractors working in various areas including the maintenance of 54,000 public housing properties in four states.
His company paid an undisclosed amount for the 11-level Gibson Street car park and the 10-level Bolton Street car park. Negotiations are continuing on the King Street car park behind the Hunter Street mall.
The Newcastle Herald understands the two buildings changed hands for about $10million.
Council general manager Phil Pearce said earlier this week the council was happy with the amount it received.
Mr Nicholson, 49, who lives with his family at Valentine, said he had faith in the future of Newcastle.
‘‘Personally, I believe it will never get big retail back again but its future lies as a commercial, residential and restaurant sector,’’ Mr Nicholson said.
‘‘I’m banking on things being at about rock bottom now.’’
Mr Nicholson said Lake Maintenance had invested in other commercial buildings but these were its first car parks.
He said pricing was yet to be completed but the car parks still had substantial vacancy rates despite $8-a-day ‘‘early bird’’ rates.
‘‘Compared with $2.50 an hour on the street, that’s incredibly cheap but the car parks need some presentation, some encouragement to people to use them,’’ he said.
‘‘The more city workers we can get into the car parks the more spaces on the street for shoppers and quick turnover.
‘‘We have looked at parking stations around the world and there are things we can do starting with presentation and cleaning, through to added services like coffee and food for people on their way to work. We’ve already started painting at Gibson Street.’’
Mr Nicholson said the two stations would operate around the clock with automated ticketing. The car park attendants already knew their numbers would be cut from nine to four.
He said both buildings were structurally sound and he believed that reports of ‘‘concrete cancer’’ were overblown.
‘‘We have some work to do on the old Cohen’s bond store frontage and there is some concrete that needs replacing around some of the ramps.’’
He said Newcastle council had looked years ago at putting extra storeys on the Bolton Street building and he was exploring the potential for three- or four-storey office additions on both buildings.
‘‘Both car parks have more than 500 spaces each,’’ Mr Nicholson said.
‘‘If you put offices on top of them then the tenants all have parking, plus there’s room for permanent or long-term parking for residents and workers nearby.’’