Just a year ago the Gosford skyline was full of the sight of cranes at work on a variety of major projects which were to kickstart the rejuvenation of the city centre.
But in recent months, many of the cranes have disappeared, as some projects have been completed while progress on several other key proposals has stagnated.
The completion of the ATO, the finance building and Bonython Tower, at opposite ends of Mann St, were a promising start to the rejuvenation, but several major projects, including the Waterside and Mariner Plaza developments, seem to have come to a standstill.
Raine and Horne Commercial, Central Coast, Sales Agent, Andrew Dunn, thinks the property market is “on its way back” following recent State and Federal elections.
“We could potentially see more developments moving forward as the market recovers,” Dunn said.
A major stumbling block for the larger projects, he said, could be attributed to changes to the “sunset clause” for “off the plan sales” made in recent years in NSW.
The sunset clause is used when buyers purchase “off the plan”, as is common with many high rise residential developments and the clause sets a time by which a development must be completed.
“Historically, either the buyer or the seller was entitled to withdraw from the property sale if the development was not finished by that date,” Dunn said.
“In the last Sydney property boom, some developers were holding back completion of projects so they could take the property back and sell it for a higher price.
“To protect purchasers and the integrity of ‘off the plan sales’, the State Government made changes to the legislation.
“Unfortunately, one of these protections was that the maximum sunset period be two years.
“Many of these larger developments in Gosford can’t be completed in two years, so developers need to fund the project commencement without any pre-sales.
“At present, the market depth and availability of project funding make this scenario far too risky for a developer to entertain,” Andrew Dunn said.
But CKDS Architecture Director, Caine King, said he hoped to see an increase in development applications as business confidence restores.
“There was a bit of a stall in DAs following the amalgamation of Gosford and Wyong councils,” King said.
“There wasn’t much confidence in the market of being able to get larger projects off the ground.”
King said new State planning controls introduced in 2018 were helping to build confidence.
“We have seen a little bit more interest since the State and Federal elections and we hope to see even more DAs lodged,” he said.
“Everything we see being built now is from (approvals) five years ago or so.
“We still need new developers coming in to keep the market flowing.”
Central Coast Mayor, Jane Smith, said Council’s planned Cultural Precinct, to comprise a regional library, performance centre and linking walkways on a block bounded by Mann and Donnison Sts, would be “an important project to stimulate activity” in the CBD.
Confirmation of the exact site is expected later this year, once commercial negotiations have been completed.
“The completion of the ATO building and others in the CBD have already made a difference, and hopefully, these things, combined with the Gosford Hospital expansion and a projected university campus, will bring in more people and stimulate local business,” Smith said.
As far as stalled projects went, Smith said once Council had approved a DA, project timeframes were then a matter for the developer.
“A lot of land banking has been a problem in the past,” she said.
“Various developers would gain DA approval and then either sit on the land or sell it.”
Smith said new planning controls set by the State Government might not be “the right mix” for Gosford.
The Government introduced its State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP), covering Gosford CBD, in October, 2018.
“I believe the government should have been more modest in its controls,” Smith said.
“Just going higher is not necessarily viable.
Prior to the government setting new planning controls, developers were already permitted to build to 20 storeys, she said.
“Council’s role is not just to please developers but to create liveable spaces.
“Massive towers need to be balanced by the correct infrastructure and open spaces.”
Council is doing its bit to make the city development ready.
A spokesman said Council’s expansion and upgrade of the Gosford CBD water and sewage system was on track to be delivered over the next five years, involving upgrades to existing water and sewer infrastructure as well as new infrastructure in key areas across the CBD area.
These include two new sewer pump stations, new connections to the President’s Hill reservoir zone and to the Gosford Hospital redevelopment, new lower pressure sewer systems to the Gosford Racecourse, and 7.7km of water mains and 6.4km of sewer mains.
Council has also rolled out more than 260 parking sensors in the CBD, following on from the successful implementation of car parking sensors in The Haven and Surf Club at Terrigal in 2018.
“The installation of sensors helps residents and visitors identify available parking through the ParkSpot (Central Coast NSW) app,” the spokesman said.
“Using real time data, ParkSpot displays areas of available, restricted and unrestricted parking in the streets of the Gosford CBD.
The sensors run between Donnison St and Erina St, and Baker St and Albany St North.
We look at some of the key building sites in the CBD and their current state of development.
53-71 Mann St
Owned by Central Coast Council
This site was acquired by the former Gosford Council as a possible location for a regional library.
With the actual siting of the library still to be determined as part of Central Coast Council’s Cultural Precinct planning, this site, adjacent to the Council building, presently sits dormant and decrepit.
A decision on the boundaries of the cultural precinct, which will incorporate a regional library, a performing arts centre and walkways, is expected later this year.
50 to 70 Mann St and 114 Georgiana Tce
Owned by New Hong Kong Macau Australia Pty Ltd
This site, incorporating the former Frogys roller skating rink in Mann St, is earmarked for a $234.36m triple tower, mixed use development.
The Waterside development will comprise commercial and residential premises, shop top housing, a cinema, hotel and tavern.
It was approved by the JRPP on December 18, 2015, with the owners announcing construction would soon start.
But despite some early demolition work, progress seems to have stagnated.
CKDS Architecture Director, Caine King, said the demolition stage of the project had successfully been completed.
“Some issues surrounding asbestos removal from the site were negotiated and resolved and the final clearance certificate is pending,” he said.
“Once that is obtained, and that is imminent, the owners will look at planning for stage one of the development, to take place on the corner of Baker St and Georgiana Tce.
“A submission on this next stage will go to Council later this year.
“In the meantime, the owners of the site are in discussions with Council and the State Government concerning possible interim usage of the site.”
45 Mann St
Owned by: Crown Land (Lot 454)- Central Coast Conservatorium Inc is the Reserve Trustee
Central Coast Council – Lot 453 (at the rear) – tenanted by Central Coast Conservatorium Inc
In 2015, Central Coast Conservatorium Inc was promised $2m by then NSW Planning Minister, Rob Stokes, as part of a $12m contribution towards regional performing arts infrastructure on the Coast.
Central Coast Council and the Federal Government also committed $10m each to a purpose built centre for performing arts.
But as debate over the possible siting of a Regional Performing Arts Centre grew, the $2m originally promised to upgrade the Conservatorium seems to have been lost in the shuffle.
Acting President of the Conservatorium, Claire Braund, said despite several proposals from the Con for a regional performing arts centre, including an acoustic quality concert hall, to be sited on and behind its current heritage building at 45 Mann St, planning had stalled.
“Neither the $10m for the RPAC nor the $2m originally promised to us has been forthcoming in the latest State Budget,” Braund said.
“While the Board is very disappointed that the $2m promised to the Conservatorium has not been realised, we have not lost heart and will be working closely with Member for Terrigal, Adam Crouch, and the Arts Minister to see what can be done to secure this vital funding to upgrade our premises.”
27 – 37 Mann St
Owned by: Rola Property Group
A mixed use retail, commercial, restaurant, and residential development valued at $53.7m was approved by the JRPP in December, 2016.
Since then, no activity has been observed on site and the listed owner has proved impossible to contact.
21-23 Mann St, 92 Henry Parry Dr
Owned by: M. Eskander, Telstra and Transfield Services Australia
This 15-storey Merindah Apartments residential building, comprising 140 units, and valued at $34m, was approved by the JRPP in September, 2015, and is nearing completion.
It is located in the B4 Mixed Use part of Gosford tucked behind the former South Gosford Post Office, which is a heritage item.
The site has an area of 6,022 square metres, with frontage to both Mann St and Henry Parry Dr.
It includes 193 parking spaces in three basement levels.
Of the 140 apartments, 19 have one bedroom, 106 have two bedrooms and 15 have three bedrooms.
Apartments are currently listed for sale for $349,000 – $1,180,000.
It appears to be on track for completion in December, 2019, with CKDS Architecture director, Caine King, confirming that most units have already been sold.
17 Mann St
Owned by LMNO One Pty Ltd
A mixed use development, comprising 33 residential units plus commercial space and car parking, valued at $5.96m was approved in May, 2013.
Attempts to contact the listed owner were unsuccessful.
Vaughn Ave &
32 Mann St
Owned by St Hilliers
The remainder of the former Gosford Public School site sits idle.
St Hilliers Development Manager, Justyn Ng, said St Hilliers remained excited about the future revitalisation of the city centre.
“We are currently progressing discussions with all key stakeholders regarding future development of the remainder of the site at 32 Mann Street,” Ng said.
“Developing the site in a way that adds value to the community over both the short and longer term is really key for us and the community consultation undertaken in 2018 has assisted us to guide this plan.
“The site has been evolved to reflect the new Gosford State Environment Planning Policy (Gosford City Centre 2018).
The Central Coast Quarter masterplan has been designed to create a fully mixed-use precinct.
We are looking forward to putting forward the masterplan soon.”
32 Mann St
Owned by St Hilliers
This mixed use commercial development valued at $34.21m was completed in February, 2019.
It is home to the Department of Finance, Services and Innovation and comprises six levels of office space, housing State Government workers, and one level of retail.
38 Mann St, 99 Georgiana Tce
Owned by: City of Brisbane Investment Corporation
This building is home to the Australian Taxation Office, valued at $20.69m.
It was opened in April, 2018, kickstarting what was predicted to be a building boom in the CBD.
It is a five-storey commercial building with associated car park.
108 Donnison, 110-118 Mann St
Owned by Gosford City Development Pty Ltd
A mixed use development, comprising commercial, retail, supermarket, hotel and shop top housing, valued at $157m, was approved by the JRPP in May, 2015.
The twin tower Mariner Plaza has seen no action since.
Greg Walker of MacArthur Projects, one of the project managers involved with the development, said he could not make a comment as discussions with Central Coast Council are ongoing.
Walker said an announcement on the future of the project could be expected in the next couple of months.
123-125 Donnison St
Owned by Central Coast Council
Central Coast Council is moving forward with detailed designs for the Gosford Cultural Precinct, on a yet to be confirmed site incorporating this property and bounded by Mann and Donnison Sts.
Council intends to create an integrated cultural hub which will connect Gosford Regional Library and Innovation Hub (the Regional Library) and a Regional Performing Arts and Conference Centre (RPACC).
The precinct will comprise both priority projects, which were selected following extensive research and analysis, pedestrian linkages and undercover parking.
Details of the exact boundaries of the precinct are expected to be released once various commercial negotiations have been concluded.
Central Coast Mayor, Jane Smith, said Council was negotiating the purchase of some properties and detailed design work on the precinct would begin once negotiations were concluded.
159 Mann St
Owned by Bonython Property and Investments
This $19.3m, 13 floor mixed use development, including restaurant, offices and shop top housing (56 units) is one of the few Mann St projects which has actually been realised.
Approved in December, 2015, by March, 2018, the first six floors of the development were complete.
Practical construction work was finished by March, 2019, with all strata and title registrations complete by May.
Raine and Horne Commercial sales agent, Andrew Dunn, said sales were proceeding well, with only eight or nine residences left to be sold, and limited commercial space still available.
136-146 Donnison St
Owned by the Lederer Group
The Lederer Group has lodged an application with the State Planning Department for a $280m redevelopment of the former Kibbleplex site as part of its larger Gosford Alive Plan.
A masterplan for the Kibbleplex redevelopment will be on display near the Erina St entry in the Imperial Centre from 11am-2pm on June 27, July 4 and July 6, with community feedback welcome.
The proposal is for a mixed use development comprising five towers above a podium, which will house residential, retail, entertainment, leisure, and food and beverage outlets.
The Lederer Group’s initial proposal says the project would transform an “unappealing car parking site” into a “lively, attractive and vibrant precinct to serve the growing needs of the emerging population in and around the Central Coast”.
The development would include car access to Donnison, William and Albany Sts, an open plaza to Henry Parry Dr fronting Kibble Park, residential accommodation in the form of flat buildings or shop-top housing, food and beverage retail premises, an indoor recreation centre and a cinema.
The Lederer Group, which also owns the Imperial Centre, acquired Kibbleplex and adjoining vacant land from the former Gosford Council for $13m on March 1, 2016.
171 Mann St
Owned by Lederer Property Group
Lederer committed to an $18m refurbishment of the Imperial Centre in 2015, which was completed in 2016.
The Imperial Shopping Centre is the CBD’s only shopping centre.
Central Coast Council DA tracker
Media statements, Jun 25
Central Coast Council
Interview, Jun 25
Andrew Dunn, Raine and Horne Commercial
Media statement, Jun 25
Greg Walker, MacArthur Projects
Interview, Jun 25
Central Coast Mayor, Jane Smith
Interview, Jun 26
CKDS Director, Caine King
Reporter: Terry Collins