ANYONE who has spent any sort of time following the ebb and flow of Hunter Street mall’s fortunes knows we’ve been here before.
A new owner, with a new grand vision and a new set of ideas.
It wasn’t so long ago – 10 years, in fact – that the former Lord Mayor of Newcastle, John Tate, announced a $60 million plan to build what became known as the “stairway to heaven”, a Spanish Steps-inspired staircase to link the mall to King Street and the Christ Church Cathedral.
The plan never eventuated, and neither did the many other ideas that have been floated for the pedestrian stretch in the last decade.
It is for that reason Novocastrians are entitled – or, perhaps obliged – to treat any new announcement about the mall with a degree of skepticism to go with the optimism.
The Baird government, UrbanGrowth and GPT are obviously pleased as punch to be able to announce a sale.
The word out of those camps is that no one made much money out of this deal – and GPT, which reportedly sunk $100 million for its stake in the mall back in 2007 probably lost quite a bit – but the win is in getting the mall off their books, and allowing the redevelopment to go ahead.
But we’ve seen it all before, and until the development applications are lodged – and there’s going to be a lot of them – and the plans open to scrutiny, Newcastle residents have every right to reserve their judgement on Iris Capital and Sam Arnaout’s plans for the East End.
By the same measure though, there’s no call for cynicism.
Iris Capital, though only a relatively new player in the residential development game, has a positive reputation and a record of delivery.
In his comments about the purchase on Thursday, Mr Arnaout was positive, but not over the top.
He has ideas, and spoke generally about the idea of turning the East End into a vibrant residential village, but he also seemed willing to stay his hand until all the work had been done to put his plans into practice.
For a city impatient for progress after such a long period of stasis that may seem tiresome, but we’ve seen grand announcements before, and they’ve often led nowhere.
In any case, this is a welcome development. Finally, there is hope that this part of the city might realise its potential.