Parramatta starts hiring to lure developers from City of Sydney and wrest CBD crown

Image: City of Parramatta.

The City of Sydney’s historic status as the state’s central business hub is once more under direct challenge from the metropolis’ West.

The literally up-and-coming geographic and commercial centre of the City of Parramatta has publicly revealed it is hunting for a new Director of Property Development to help spearhead a $2 billion bid to shift the centre commercial activity away from Sydney’s increasing crowded coastline and closer to where the bulk of the city’s population live.

The big push by Parramatta to attract investors for big new commercial and residential property projects comes as crowding and a shortage of stock push up prices and the relative difficulty in getting new projects up in the CBD.

Successive state governments have for decades lauded the potential for Parramatta to be Sydney’s real commercial centre; however property investors and big developers have historically chased opportunities closer to the 2000 postcode as sizeable tracts of once industrial land were opened up.

A real issue for prospective commercial property buyers and lessees is that the seemingly insatiable demand for inner-city apartments is now putting unprecedented pressure on developers to rebuild or convert existing offices – especially those with views – into residential blocks that offer a higher return.

The City of Sydney has similarly made no secret of its ambitions to create a living downtown metropolis where people live, eat and work as opposed to an office dominated precinct that shuts after 6pm.

At the same time, Sydney’s notorious traffic congestion and chronically over-crowded public transport system is making it progressively harder and slower for workers to commute from the West, prompting employers to scout for tenancies closer to where people live.

A key example is the New South Wales Police Force that relocated its administrative headquarters to Parramatta from College Street in the city, allowing the building with water vies overlooking Hyde Park to be redeveloped into luxury apartments that sold for well over $1 million a piece.

As the push by the O’Farrell government to turf entire government departments and state corporations from increasingly valuable CBD real estate continues, interest from big commercial property investors like GPT is steadily increasing.

“Parramatta City Council is embarking on one of the largest public infrastructure and community renewal projects in NSW with a portfolio valued at around $2 billion,” the local government stated in its casting call for a director of property development, adding that the role “will play a pivotal role for all phases of project development and management.”

One big project Parramatta City Council wants put the state government’s approval of is a proposed light rail link that links neighbouring suburbs and infrastructure like Westmead Hospital.

The council has been agitating for the government to support the new line, which could be be trunked through existing corridors starting at Westmead and going to Parramatta itself and then onto Eastwood and then to the technology and the business hub of Macquarie Park.

The new line would help cater for cross-suburban train travellers who have been left partially stranded because of the historic focus on trunking heavy rail into the CBD.

Parramatta Lord Mayor Cr John Chedid applauded “confirmation that the State Government is seriously considering the Council’s proposal for a Western Sydney light rail network as a 2015 election commitment.”

“As Lord Mayor, I have been campaigning for this project for several years. Our Council has conducted a detailed feasibility study which shows the project is viable at a total cost of $1.7 billion,” Cr Chedid said.

“The network will link two of the nation’s fastest growing CBDs, Parramatta and Macquarie Park, and also the Hills district, which supplies 60 per cent of Parramatta’s workforce.

“It will address the two main challenges facing Western Sydney: creating jobs and catering for a fast growing population. By 2031, the network will support 180,000 jobs and 50,000 homes.

Randwick Council successfully persuaded the O’Farrell government to push its new CBD and Eastern Suburbs light rail extension out as far as Kensington and the University of New South Wales that are now serviced by buses.

Those light rail services will run on separate corridors originally used for Sydney’s trams that were stopped in 1961.

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