THE redevelopment of Newcastle’s Hunter Street mall could begin early next year, after its backer Iris Capital lodged a development application with Newcastle council on Friday.
Iris chief executive Sam Arnaout said the latest milestone for the East End mixed-use site, over four city blocks between the old David Jones building and Newcomen Street, marked “a very important day for Newcastle”.
“This is one of the most exciting times in Newcastle’s rich history. The people of Newcastle have watched its CBD decay for several decades and we have a real opportunity to create a legacy for Novocastrians for generations to come,” Mr Arnaout said.
“It’s exciting to be the one bringing that to fruition.”
The NSW government announced last November that Sydney-based Iris had bought the 1.66 hectare site from the listed GPT Group and state-owned UrbanGrowth NSW.
Iris is understood to have paid about $40 million.
The master-planned East End will be released in “boutique stages” of one, two and three-bedroom apartments totaling about 500, with about 4,900 square metres of mainly boutique shops and cafes at ground level and 2,700 square metres of office space.
One of East End’s architectural jewels, Mr Arnaout said, will be the historic David Jones building, to be renamed the Scotts building and restored with an awning in keeping with its original design.
The car park behind the building will make way for a new street within the development, though the state government’s half-billion-dollar city revitalisation has been criticised for a lack of parking.
Colliers International director Dane Crawford, who is managing sales for East End, said he expected a variety of buyers.
“Owner-occupiers will be drawn to the unique design concept and apartments on offer. Many will be the downsizers and empty-nesters currently driving strong demand for good quality three-bedroom apartments,” Mr Crawford said.
“Naturally, the balance will be made up with investors looking to capitalise on Newcastle’s rapid increase in desirability.”
Iris’s development application is a step towards ending the long stalemate over the mall, which has included debate over building height limits ultimately imposed by Newcastle council.
Mr Arnaout said the planning approval process had been “rigorous, tough and contested”.
“The Newcastle community and council helped shape the development, and we respect the decisions that were made before Iris Capital purchased the site,” he said.
“I think the design not only respects the city’s heritage but works with it. We’ve selected award-winning international architects to deliver a world-class design.”