CONSTRUCTION is set to resume on the waterfront in Newcastle’s Honeysuckle precinct for the first time in a decade, with the NSW government agreeing to a plan for three new apartment buildings.
The government’s Honeysuckle overseer, the Hunter Development Corporation, has chosen Canberra developer the Doma Group to redevelop the prime 7300 square metre site at Lee Wharf following its call for expressions of interest earlier this year.
The Doma Group still needs approval from the NSW Planning Department for its plan to proceed, but construction could start as early as the second half of 2017.
The Hunter Development Corporation’s acting general manager Valentina Misevska said the “concept” for the 21 Honeysuckle Drive site was designed by Sydney firm SJB Architects, and comprises three buildings with a mix of one, two and three-bedroom apartments, individual townhouses and “some retail activation” on the ground floor.
“The redevelopment of this site, for three residential buildings over a 7300 square metre site, will be a significant contributor to the government’s broader urban revitalisation program in the Newcastle city centre,” Ms Misevska said.
“We expect a development application for this project to be submitted in the coming months.
Ms Misevska said the Hunter Development Corporation had selected the Doma proposal ahead of eight others submitted for the site following expressions of interest.
The Newcastle Herald understands the government and the Doma Group have not released concept drawings to illustrate the plan because the developer wants to finalise some details before submitting a development application.
Neither the government nor the Doma Group had detailed, at the time of publication, how tall the buildings are planned to be.
“A key part of this project will be the high quality landscaping of the public promenade and Worth Place Park alongside the site,” Ms Misevska said.
Given the size and water frontage of the Lee Wharf block, the Herald understands it could fetch about $1500 a square metre and easily be worth more than $50 million.
The Hunter Development Corporation has described its expression of interest process throughout as having yielded “a good variety” of proposals.
The corporation’s former general manager Bob Hawes, who resigned in July, hadn’t ruled out a hotel ultimately being built on the site, but had predicted that interest from residential developers was more likely.
Honeysuckle’s usual requirement for developers to invest in grouting to offset Newcastle’s historic mine subsidence has been mitigated by $1 million already spent in the area.
As previously reported, the start of work at 21 Honeysuckle Drive will mean the loss of the 252 car spaces that are there now.
Another 370 harbourside car spaces near Throsby Creek will be lost to the expected development of land at Cottage Creek and Throsby Wharf.
Any deal between the government and the University of Newcastle to develop three sites on nearby Wright Lane will also likely come at the expense of its 180 spaces.
The impending mass loss of Newcastle’s harbourside parking prompted the government this month to promise a city-wide parking strategy.
The government says the strategy will be designed by its agencies such as the development corporation and UrbanGrowth NSW, as well as Newcastle council, and consider the current parking in the Newcastle city centre including zonings, availability and accessibility.
The Hunter Development Corporation’s position on the Lee Wharf car park – used daily by hundreds of office workers – is that it was opened in 2011 with an intended five-year lifespan to fit in with the continuing development at Honeysuckle, and the timing of the latest decision is consistent with that.
The three new buildings at Lee Wharf will further expand the Doma Group’s footprint in the precinct, with work well underway on its residential and commercial building at nearby 18 Honeysuckle Drive.
Doma’s expenditure on that mixed-used development, next to the NIB building, has been estimated at $38 million.
It is scheduled for completion by the end of this year.