Gerry Harvey punting on Dubbo with $35m apartment tower

Magic Millions

Gerry Harvey at the Magic Millions. ‘I don’t think property prices have ever been as strong in the country,’ Harvey says. Picture: Luke Marsden

Multibillionaire retailer Gerry Harvey might be close to 82 years of age and built a retail ­empire worth $3.3bn worth of Harvey Norman stores, constructed houses, and developed land subdivisions, but he has never before ventured into apartment towers – particularly 400km from Sydney in the heart of the Central West.

But the upsurge in country ­residential prices and lack of housing rental stock prompted Mr Harvey to finally kick start a project on a site he bought back in 2005.

He selected Dubbo in the NSW Central West to build a 13-level $35m apartment tower, at least 10 levels higher than the country town’s tallest building, developing it in tandem with the Dubbo-based Walkom brothers who have been business partners with Mr Harvey for at least 35 years.

“It’s the biggest building in Dubbo by a country mile,” Mr Harvey told The Australian.

“I don’t think property prices have ever been as strong in the country,” he says, adding he had already sold two of the apartments at the top of the tower for $1.77m and $1.55m without any marketing.

While Mr Harvey has many side interests such as the annual Magic Millions thoroughbred bloodstock auction, he has also quietly developed houses and housing subdivisions.

He reckons he could get $4bn for his local and international property portfolio of retail stores in Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, Singapore and Slovenia should he ever wish to sell.

Construction of the 13-level $35m apartment complex to be known as the 1 Church Street development and which is positioned near Dubbo’s river and main street is expected to complete by October, 2022.

The development has been given the green light by Dubbo Regional Council.

Fronting the corner of Bligh and Church streets, in the Dubbo CBD, the project will include 72 apartments, two car parks for 123 vehicles and space for retail business to set up on the ground floor.

What it will look like ... an artist’s impression of the No. 1 Church Street development in Dubbo. Picture: No. 1 Church Street

An artist’s impression of the No 1 Church Street development in Dubbo.

Demolition of the existing office block has already commenced while initial proposals to include a serviced apartment complex have been abandoned.

“We had never been game to do it, to build 13 levels,” Mr Harvey said, but he also noted that country real estate prices were booming.

“This is nothing to do with Covid, we made the decision to do it before Covid, a lot of people are starting to move to the country, demand for the country has never been like this before.

“I don’t think property prices have ever been as strong, you can’t rent houses in country cities, because they are all rented out,” he said. From a Harvey Norman perspective the best country towns in NSW are Dubbo, Wagga, Albury, Bathurst, Orange, Tamworth, and Armidale because of their big populations.

Mr Harvey said he was particularly interested in building and enlarging more Harvey Norman shops in these country towns adding that he is building a $100m-plus Harvey Norman store in Queensland at the moment as well as a $25m one on New Zealand’s South Island.

‘We are the biggest owner of retail parks in Australia,’ Mr Harvey said.

Offshore, the company owns vast real estate holdings in Ireland, ­Slovakia, New Zealand and Singapore.

Apartment buyers are expected to include downsizers, people retiring off the land or professional people keen to live in the Dubbo CBD. Of the 72 units to be built as part of the No. 1 Church St development, seven will be one-bedroom, 54 will have two bedrooms and 11 will be three-bedroom apartments.