City rejuvenation spurs property boom
BUILD it and they will come, they said. But few thought they’d come before it was even built.
Newcastle’s remarkable urban renewal has residential apartment projects selling out off the plan in an almost-unprecedented billion-dollar boom.
There are more than 20 residential apartment projects about to spring up in the city precinct, with most new apartments sold before a sod has even been turned.
The latest major development to hit the market is the $100 million Icon Central development on Hunter Street. It is the first major project to be put on the market since the city’s university campus was confirmed, and is now the first to attract significant investment dollars from Asia.
Ed Crawford, chairman of the Australian Property Council’s Hunter chapter and partner in Crawford Robinson, confirmed yesterday that Icon had attracted a significant number of investors and interest from Asian capital funds and major investment groups in Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and the Chinese mainland.
Most of those buying city real estate, though, are local residents, Sydney investors and self-managed superannuation funds.
The large Arena development near The Royal apartments on Newcastle Beach is almost sold out. Developer Keith Stronach said about 120 of the 150 apartments have sold, with construction about to start.
Nearby, the Tattersalls apartment project in Watt Street has sold entirely off the plan, and so has the residential development planned for the old Star Hotel site on King Street.
There are more than a dozen other residential projects either started, or about to start, and that figure doesn’t include the massive redevelopment of the Hunter Street Mall site owned by UrbanGrowth and GPT.
The city’s real estate agents and developers say the boom reflects a strong confidence in the urban renewal of the city. The university project, the law courts project, the decision to peel back the city’s heavy rail line to Wickham are all playing key roles, they said, with Newcastle getting unprecedented attention in investment magazines both within Australia and overseas.
The latest boom has prompted one real estate chain to open a CBD shopfront where potential buyers can compare some of the various residential developments on offer.
PRD Nationwide said the shopfront was aimed at catering for the large number of inquiries, mostly from local and national investors and those self-managing their super.
‘‘All this attention has definitely put Newcastle on the map,’’ PRD Nationwide’s Luke Murdoch said.
‘‘What we’ve seen in the past 18 months is the stars aligning in Newcastle. The 18 apartments in The Wren development sold out in 45 days.’’
Mr Crawford said any boom in the Newcastle market was always part of cyclical trends, but it was the first time the city had seen this degree of Asian investment.
‘‘I think people have been pretty cautious for the last 10 or 12 years, but now they’re seeing the courts building go up, they’re seeing the university project move ahead, they’re seeing movement on the rail issue – they’re seeing all the things that are happening here and deciding to move back into the city,’’ he said.
‘‘Some people will say we just talk the market up, but we don’t have to, have a look around at what’s happening. Others say the market will be over-supplied with all these (residential) projects coming on line, but we don’t agree. Newcastle is still under-supplied.’’
Developer Keith Stronach, who has developed and sold more than 800 apartments in the Lee Wharf and Honeysuckle precinct over the past decade, said the market was riding high predominantly on the back of the city’s urban renewal.
‘‘Newcastle is now a very desirable place to live again,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s almost funny, in the 90s everyone was leaving the city, but now everyone is moving back in.’’
Arena Apartments, 150 apartments, $100m
Tattersall’s Apartments, 53 apartments, $27m
Peniche Apartments, 40 apartments, $20m
Wren Apartments, 18 apartments,$na
44-46 Watt St, 17 apartments, $3.7m
4 Pacific St, 13 apartments, $na
GPT/UrbanGrowth, Number to be determined, $400m
Lucky Country Hotel, 40 rooms, $na
Icon Central, 262 apartments, $100m
Star Apartments, 31 dwellings, $13m
Empire Hotel, 114 apartments, $na
Wharf Road, 176 hotel rooms, $24m
Spire Apartments, 150 apartments, $50m
Beresford St Apartments, 100+ apartments, $60m
Edition, Number to be determined, $38m
Nest, 26-room boarding house, $3.3m
272 Darby St, 17 units, $2.6m
Life on Throsby, 40 dwellings, $20m