ABC’s new Parramatta base a coup for ‘Sydney’s other CBD’

Picture: NCA NewsWire/Joel Carrett
Picture: NCA NewsWire/Joel Carrett

The ABC’s plans to move a significant part of its media operations to Parramatta will help consolidate Western Sydney as a go-to alternative to the Sydney central business district for corporate Australia, experts say.

Knight Frank partner Wally Scales, who heads up the agency’s Western Sydney branch, said the decision by the national broadcaster to establish a Parramatta base was a coup for the region.

On Wednesday, the ABC announced plans to move 300 employees from its Ultimo office to new facilities in Parramatta, 25km west of the CBD – most likely at Parramatta Square.

Staff will move from the content divisions, including the newsroom, local radio, national radio and television production teams, with the new facilities likely to incorporate radio and television studios and a public space for community engagement.

The ABC said it had started its search for a new site and would work with a property adviser to identify suitable premises, with the new base expected to be operational by 2024.

“The fact that our major news organisation sees fit to relocate such a substantial part of their business to Parramatta heralds well for Parramatta’s standing as Sydney’s other CBD,” Mr Scales said.

“My understanding is that it’s going to potentially involve almost a public studio on Parramatta Square, which would be a great activator for the public space.”

Mr Scales said Parramatta’s transformation was a work in progress with considerable commercial and residential construction works underway.

“In conjunction with the buildings that have been completed, it’s pretty much transformed the nature of the commercial market in Parramatta. Parramatta now offers genuine, high quality, A-grade accommodation, which it really did lack in the past and really was why a lot of corporate businesses did not include it in their expansion plans,” he said.

“It’s now on the map as a must-consider with any corporate organisation seeking to expand or relocate in Sydney.

“This also helps to galvanise the headquarters of Greater Western Sydney as a major job centre that’s attractive not only for government agencies, but also corporate Australia relocating sizeable parts of their operations to Parramatta. We’re not expecting the corporates to make it their headquarter locations, but certainly they won’t simply be satellite operations like they have been in the past.”

Parramatta is emerging as Sydney’s second CBD. Picture: Getty

REA Group economist Anne Flaherty said there had been a concerted movement towards alternative business districts in recent years.

“While demand for offices outside capital cities had been increasing in the years before COVID-19 hit, the pandemic has accelerated this trend. This trend has been particularly evident in Sydney and Melbourne,” Ms Flaherty said.

“In New South Wales, the proportion of office enquiries on for offices located in the Sydney CBD fell to the lowest level on record in the first quarter of 2021, down to 8.6%, nearly half the 16.3% proportion seen two years ago.

“Parramatta is the third most enquired after office location in New South Wales (behind the Sydney CBD and Surry Hills). As an office destination, Parramatta is likely to benefit from the rapid population growth seen in Sydney’s western suburbs.”

In a statement, the ABC said Parramatta was at the geographic heart of Sydney and increasing the broadcaster’s workforce in Western Sydney would provide greater visibility and connection to the growing community.

“Parramatta is an ideal location for journalists and producers heading to stories both across the city and Western Sydney. It will be easier to engage with more parts of Sydney than is presently the case with the Ultimo headquarters. This move will strengthen the ability of the ABC to fulfil its goal being more relevant to more Australians,” the ABC said.

Federal Communications Minister Paul Fletcher welcomed the announcement, saying the move would allow the ABC to represent the interests in Western Sydney more equitably.

“More diversity of people will mean more diversity of opinion amongst ABC staff and journalists, and any objective observer would agree that can only be a good thing,” he said.