Aqualand joins the build-to-rent party with northern exposure

North Sydney skyline at dawn showing a building under construction.

Aqualand has lodged plans for a 40-storey tower at 146 Arthur St to be developed on the site of the ageing office complex.

The property group behind Central Barangaroo is taking the big leap into the build-to-rent market, with plans to develop one of the specialist unit towers in North Sydney to launch it into the hot sector.

Aqualand has lodged plans for a 40-storey tower at 146 Arthur St to be developed on the site of the ageing office complex it picked up in 2017 from Chinese trading company General Nice Group for $78m.

The company said its plans would contribute to the easing of Sydney’s rental shortage with about 300 apartments planned above a ground floor retail and commercial precinct, in the heart of the rejuvenated North Sydney CBD.

The project would sit near both North Sydney station and the future Victoria Cross Metro station.

Build-to-rent has emerged as one of the busiest asset classes in Australia, with both developers and big funds managers getting set in the area. There have been few projects on Sydney’s North Shore, despite their proliferation in the western hub of Parramatta and areas like Homebush.

Aqualand sees adding build-to-rent to its range of property – which includes luxury apartments, office blocks and precinct-size developments – as a pivot to help alleviate the restricted rental market, and it plans to run the complex.

“We look forward to being committed to our future residents by providing them with a high-quality rental product with a large range of five-star hotel-style amenities and services designed to elevate their lifestyle experiences and create a strong sense of community, including a sky deck, lounge area/bar, pool, gym work spaces and communal dining room,” Aqualand managing director Jin Lin said.

Mr Lin said that while the project was only in the early stages of planning, the company would “ensure the apartments meet the North Sydney market’s needs, while ultimately increasing housing choices and supply”.

Mr Lin noted the firm was already deeply committed to North Sydney, pointing to its Aura by Aqualand residential project at 168 Walker St, which is set to open in mid-2024, the Blue at Lavender Bay development which was completed in 2021.

Other commercial assets in North Sydney include 15 Blue St and 132 Arthur St, which are also potential future redevelopment sites.

“These key projects are set to make a significant contribution to the vibrancy of the 18-hour economy in this … CBD precinct, which is in the midst of a major rejuvenation,” he said.

The move signals Aqualand’s longer term commitment to the market at a time when it is poised to submit new plans for Central Barangaroo where it has just taken full control of the project after the exit of the Scentre, owner of the local Westfield empire. Aqualand has flagged a lower rise development and may also bring in fresh partners.