Property tycoon Lang Walker has pulled back from plans to build a 90-storey apartment tower in Parramatta and the residential skyscraper once billed as one of the country’s tallest is now likely to be developed as a gigantic office block as tenants chase more space in the western Sydney hub.
The apartment boom has significantly cooled since the project was conceived, although thousands of apartments are still planned for the area, which appears to be holding despite a rout in the inner-city areas of Brisbane and Melbourne.
The City of Parramatta Council yesterday said it had “agreed to explore” changing the predominant use of the site at 8 Parramatta Square from residential to commercial, subject to approval from a new batch of councillors to be elected in September.
Under the new scheme, Walker Corporation would be given the option to switch the use of the site that was to house the landmark Aspire Tower over to an A-grade office block.
“We commend the council for its forward thinking in terms of the sensible development of this important city precinct and believe that Parramatta Square will be the centrepiece for Sydney’s second CBD over the next five years,” Mr Walker said.
The Aspire Tower was to have about 700 apartments and a luxury hotel. At one stage it was rumoured to have drawn interest from Chinese developer Country Garden but no deal emerged.
The striking residential tower, designed by architects Bates Smart, was to rise 90 storeys. It was to have been the centrepiece of a multi-billion dollar redevelopment of Parramatta Square but will now be an office complex alongside three other towers Walker is developing.
The decision has been partly driven by the NSW government’s desire to shift more departments to the city’s west but it yesterday said its requirements had not changed.
City of Parramatta council administrator Amanda Chadwick said Walker would have to meet strict conditions before switching the building over to office space, including securing precommitments from tenants for at least half the building. It must also maintain the iconic architecture and the tower’s height. “Walker Corporation will be required to hold another design competition for a redesign of the building that will be one of the tallest in Australia,” Ms Chadwick said.
Walker will combine the lower floors of 8 Parramatta Square with its adjoining building at 6 Parramatta Square, creating a campus-style building suited to universities and technology companies.
A series of financial players and educators are chasing space in the area which, on some estimates, may surpass North Sydney, where there is also a building boom.
The Western Sydney University will occupy a vertical campus and Sydney Water and accountants PricewaterhouseCoopers are already in the area.
NAB and three NSW government departments have also committed to leasing Walker-built towers 3 and 4 Parramatta Square.
The tycoon has indicated he wants to hold the development, which is on track to surpass his $2.5 billion Collins Square precinct in Melbourne, locking in his status as the country’s largest private holder of office buildings.
By BEN WILMOT
Commercial property reporter