Sydney ‘Silicon Valley’ tech hub to provide economic boost
A technology precinct bordering Sydney’s Central Station is being fast-tracked, with a scheme by listed property company Dexus and Singapore-backed Frasers Property for a major commercial development to be approved as the NSW government positions the economy for a restart.
The two connected towers planned by the developers are part of a multibillion-dollar overhaul of the area around the station and will be targeted by global technology companies looking to move into what has been dubbed Sydney’s Silicon Valley.
The scheme has moved to the final leg of the state’s unsolicited proposal process that was also used by James Packer’s Crown Resorts to win approval for its $2.2bn hotel, apartment and casino tower at harbourside Barangaroo.
Nearby projects are also using this route and the NSW government this month pledged to cut red tape and fast-track planning processes to keep the construction industry moving during the pandemic.
NSW Planning and Public Spaces Minister Rob Stokes said construction and development were vital to the economic recovery. The state’s speedier program would create opportunities for more than 30,000 construction jobs in the next six months, he said, noting a focus on state-significant developments, and more ministerial decisions.
Industry groups have called for further reforms to planning to kickstart major works with the Urban Taskforce delivering a list of 76 pending projects to the NSW government that includes proposals by private companies Meriton, Walker Corporation, Grocon, Bilbergia, Winten and Iwan Sunito’s Crown Group as well as listed players Dexus and Mirvac.
“The economic crisis that looms will call for a quantum shift in planning regulation and practice which massively shifts the focus of decision-making towards the economic imperative and away from the wish list of things that would be nice to have,” Urban Taskforce chief executive Tom Forrest said.
UDIA NSW chief executive Steve Mann said enabling new projects would produce a major economic dividend as it would ensure “there is a pipeline to protect the jobs of the one in four people who draw their income from the construction and development industry”.
The Dexus/Frasers project will see government blocks in Lee Street transformed into two office skyscrapers and is part of an overall technology precinct where software giant Atlassian is developing a new headquarters.
The area will be rounded out by a new tower proposed by hotel group Toga for luxury accommodation and offices.
The RLB Crane Index found there were 772 cranes working on key projects across Australia as construction has been deemed an essential service during the crisis.
Rider Levett Bucknall Oceania director of research and development Domenic Schiafone said uncertainties surrounding the pandemic would affect the industry but insisted it remain open.
“Any shutdown of the industry will be felt for far longer than the shutdown period, as maintaining both the workforce and supply chains during a close-down will be difficult. The industry has never seen this type of disruption in generations and the speed of mobilisation is an unknown,” he said.
The rise of Central Station as an innovation precinct has been on the cards since 2018 when the plan by Dexus and Frasers Property was given an initial green light. The properties are held under long-term leases, with 14 Lee Street held by the Dexus Office Partnership, and 20 Lee Street and 26 Lee Street held by Frasers.
The parties and the government did not comment.
Internet giant Google has shown interest in the area but an unsolicited scheme for the US giant by Mirvac at a site near the Australian Technology Park was rejected in 2018.
The overall innovation precinct is expected to create 10,000 jobs by 2036. “It presents a unique opportunity to integrate Transport for NSW’s plans to revitalise Central Station, complementing the state government’s vision for a new technology and innovation precinct, stretching from Central to Eveleigh,” Dexus chief executive Darren Steinberg said in 2018 when the project was unveiled.
This article originally appeared on www.theaustralian.com.au/property.