By Joe Bourke and Emily Contador-Kelsall
The state government’s planning policy and transparency have come into question following the announcement that a property acquired for the failed metro line will be sold.
108 Miller Street Pyrmont, previously owned by photo and imaging company C.R. Kennedy, was bought by the former Labor government for the Metro rail line. The project was shelved in early 2010.
The Pyrmont property was one of seven properties that the government completely acquired for a total of $102.6 million. In the 2010 annual report of the Metro, it was stated that all seven properties would remain in government ownership to “support corridor protection for future transport requirements in the long term”.
But the site’s sale has instead been marketed by the Office of Finance and Services as an opportunity to create much needed inner-city housing for Pyrmont, one of the most densely populated suburbs in New South Wales.
Stuart Cox is Divisional Director for Residential Site Sales at Savills Australia, the company managing the sales process on behalf of the state government. He told City Hub the site went to market last week and has already garnered very strong interest from local, interstate and offshore development groups.
The way in which the property was acquired is similar to the process for acquisition of properties for the contentious WestConnex motorway.
Greens spokesperson for WestConnex and MP for Newtown Jenny Leong criticised the government’s process of acquiring properties, especially family homes, before releasing the project’s key documents.
“What we need to see is a clear plan and transparency from the government when it comes to their plans solving Sydney’s transport needs,” she said.
“That doesn’t put things behind closed doors and at the same time expect families to willingly give up their homes without knowing what the plans or intentions are. It makes people question, does the government actually know what their plans are?”
The site’s zoning permits for a mixed-use development incorporating residential accommodation with business or other non-residential uses at street level.
Exactly what type of development will be undertaken on the site is uncertain, but CEO of Government Property NSW Brett Newman said in a statement that it was “expected to attract significant interest for mixed use redevelopment” which would provide additional inner-city housing.
Convenor of the Pyrmont Action Group Elizabeth Elenius said there was a strong desire for the site to be used as a childcare centre, which would free up space in the Pyrmont Community Centre for other community uses. Ms Elenius added that the site would be “very suitable” for affordable or social housing and a good space for a sporting centre that Pyrmont currently lacks.
Although the nature of the development is yet to be determined as tender for the site remains open until early June, its impending sale signals the movement of the property into private hands despite having never been utilised by the government.
“[The premature purchase of property] is happening in St Peters, well before plans are finalised for the extension of WestConnex – and given the timeframe for this extension it is possible that this won’t proceed, or will happen many years hence,” Ms Elenius said.