Shortlist for Sydney ferry wharves overhaul narrows to two

Another new skyscraper could be coming to Circular Quay.
Another new skyscraper could be coming to Circular Quay.

Sydney’s Circular Quay is a step closer to a major overhaul with the Berejiklian government quietly shortlisting rival consortiums — one led by Lendlease and the other by Plenary Group — for a $2 billion overhaul of the ferry wharves precinct.

The move comes amid an effective pause on major new projects ahead of the NSW election, with many companies putting their projects on the backburner to avoid stirring anti-development sentiment.

But the government had last March asked the top ranks of local and international developers and infrastructure groups to submit plans for the Circular Quay job that includes the right to redevelop and also operate the city’s ferry wharves.

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Transport for NSW led the call for proposals from industry players on how the Circular Quay precinct could be overhauled via a structured market engagement that went out to nine groups.

The bidding drew local real estate heavyweights AMP Capital, Broadspectrum’s APP Corporation, Dexus and Scentre Group, with the international field including Dutch giant BAM International, Canada’s Brookfield and Malaysian giant SP Setia.

The property players participated as some have towers in the precinct — Lendlease is developing the $1.5 billion Circular Quay Tower and a win on the wharves precinct could allow it to better integrate the schemes.

But it faces stiff competition as the Plenary consortium it is up against also sports some big names. The Plenary group includes a design team led by London-based AL_A Architecture, and two renowned Australian firms, Cox Architecture and McGregor Coxall. The construction contractor is John Holland.

The CQC group, led by Lendlease and Capella Capital, has a design team headed by local firm Tzannes Architects, bolstered by Grimshaw Global and landscape architects Aspect. The consortium’s building would likely be handled by Lendlease.

The two urban renewal and infrastructure consortiums are now progressing and refining their ideas via a competitive process that is expected to be finalised in the 2019-20 financial year, with the winner to undertake a program to upgrade the five wharves and the immediate foreshore.

NSW government tender documents say Circular Quay’s transport infrastructure and public domain does not “fulfil the potential of its globally recognised location and cannot meet the forecast growth in customers and visitors”.

The bidders are now working up schemes to provide “a revitalised, vibrant, waterfront destination matching Sydney’s role as Australia’s premier global city”.

Although that process is getting under way, there has been little public progress on the tender for the lucrative rights to redevelop the Sirius building in the historic Rocks.

Sydney councillors and NSW MPs last month stopped the developer of Opal Tower from being part of the process, with Ecove pulling out of a group including China’s Aoyuan.

The battle is also being contested by property developer Danny Avidan and a Vietnamese group known as JD Capital.

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