Spotlight Group Holdings could build a twin-towers development on the site of its Hunter Street store, adding to the surge in committed and potential investment activity in Newcastle’s long-neglected west end.
If the project proceeds, it could be the fourth example of high-rise twin towers within two blocks.
SGH’s executive deputy chairman, Zac Fried, and Lake Macquarie mayor Kay Fraser announced on Monday that the firm would build a $90 million retail precinct for Spotlight, Anaconda, Bunnings and other stores on the Pacific Highway at Bennetts Green.
SGH, a $2 billion company with retail and property interests across Australia and New Zealand, owns the Hunter Street building that houses Spotlight and Anaconda and an adjoining three-storey car park in National Park Street.
Mr Fried said the company was looking at a mixed-use development on the Hunter Street site, possibly as a joint venture with a Newcastle developer.
“If you look at the main building, there’s room there for two towers,” he said.
The Spotlight site is beside Core Group’s $140 million seniors village, hotel and office project in King Street.
Those high-rises are across the road from Newcastle City Council’s new accommodation in the Gateway 2 offices being built in Stewart Avenue and a block from Doma Group’s $200 million Store redevelopment, which also includes two towers.
A cooling property market has raised questions about some of Newcastle’s biggest development projects, and Mr Fried said he was in no hurry to start work on the Spotlight site.
He said SGH had 20 construction projects in the pipeline to start next year.
“It depends on the market,” he said. “Probably in today’s market I’d let it simmer for a bit and see how we go while we’re working through the planning side of it.
“I haven’t got a clear idea of what we’re going to do there yet. I don’t want to just jump on to the tail end of what’s happening now. I’m a patient developer.
“We might just leave the car park and develop the front, because there is a shortage of parking in the area. There’s no point demolishing then rebuilding the same things.”
Mr Fried said the company’s decision to move Spotlight and Anaconda from inner Newcastle was based on the need to expand both stores.
“The new Spotlight is almost double the size of the retail footprint, and Anaconda as well, and all the parking.
“[The new site] is basically the intersection of the two main highways in Newcastle.
“It’s not about whether the CBD is right or wrong for us; it’s more where do I find a block of land where I can build a big enough offering.
“I’m happy to stay there [Hunter Street] long-term, but, from where our business is, I need bigger boxes.”
He said SGH was ready to start building “tomorrow” at the 30,000 square metre Bennetts Green site but expected a delay gaining project approval from Roads and Maritime Services.
“The biggest frustration I’ve got is getting the RMS signed off, because, even though we’ve got a permit, I’m being told the RMS could take nine to 12 months to give us approval to go ahead.”