Performing Arts Centre will not be included in former school site

The finance building under construction and, to the right, the fi nal third of the former Gosford Public School landThe finance building under construction and, to the right, the fi nal third of the former Gosford Public School land

A regional performing arts centre will not be built on the remainder of the former Gosford School land, according to statements made by the site’s developers, St Hilliers.

“The Regional Performing Arts Centre was never considered as part of our masterplan, nor has part of the St Hilliers’ site been acquired by Council,” the company said in a written statement. This is despite Central Coast Mayor, Jane Smith, stating at the end of January that she believed negotiations between Council staff and St Hilliers were ongoing. “St Hilliers’ vision has always been to transform the site into a precinct which includes generous public open space, residential, retail and hospitality uses,” the statement said. In fact, St Hilliers has estimated that the redevelopment of the two-thirds of the school land it acquired from the NSW Government for $9.5 million, will end up with a market value of around $200 million.

The settlement was due towards the end of 2017, and Coast Community News asked St Hilliers for confirmation that it had paid the NSW Government the $9.5 million. “Formal contracts have been executed and exchanged, and St Hillers complied with all conditions of the contract,” they said in a written statement. “As part of the tender process, St Hilliers detailed how it would deliver on the NSW Government’s vision for the remainder of the site. “Throughout delivery of the new Department of Finance, Services and Innovation building and the creation of the masterplan, we are working closely with Property NSW to demonstrate delivery of the agreed vision.” Coast Community News sought confirmation from property NSW that settlement occurred last year as planned. In a written statement, Property NSW said: “The 1.1 hectare of land at 32 Mann St, Gosford was sold to St Hilliers in May, 2017, for $9.5 million.

“The sale included the requirement for a 7,000 square metres, mixed-use commercial building on the site to deliver leased government office accommodation for more than 300 public sector roles relocating from the Sydney metropolitan area. “Final settlement will be late 2018, subject to certain project milestones. “A delayed settlement is a mechanism that allows the NSW Government to retain an interest in what is delivered on the site. “On settlement in late 2018, the NSW Government will no longer have an ownership interest in the former Gosford Public School land.

“This is in line with the government’s policy to identify and divest under-utilised sites to fund new and improved infrastructure and better services for the people of NSW. “In this instance, the relocation of Gosford’s public school in 2014 made this possible. “As part of the tender process for the sale of 32 Mann St, St Hilliers detailed how it would deliver the Government’s vision for the remainder of the land, including providing public open space, mixed-use residential and retail offerings.

“Property NSW will continue to work with St Hilliers and Central Coast Council to realise that vision through the current master planning process,” the Property NSW statement said. “St Hillers will use the remaining third of the land for “mixed-use development”. Through our recent market research, the key findings were that the community requires good quality yet affordable food options, with a desire for more urban experiences. Mr Mark Dixon, St Hilliers Property Development Manager, who is in charge of its Gosford CBD project, said the completion of the NSW Government finance building at 32 Mann Street was on track for the end of this year.

“We are now another level above Mann St and progressing well with the structure, and we have another five levels to go,” Mr Dixon said. The new Australian Taxation Office building in Georgiana Tce and the WorkCover building in Donnison St, which opened in 2001, have both been criticised for their lack of street-level activation. “We are looking at ground floor activation, we are still going through the plans and that is still the concept of retail, such as cafes and restaurants, to get that going on a tenancy basis,” he said. The statement from St Hilliers’ public relations firm to supplement Mr Dixon’s interview responses said “The ground floor of the new Department of Finance, Services and Innovations building will have a mixture of commercial tenancies and street-level alfresco dining.”

Mr Dixon would not answer a question from Coast Community News about whether or not St Hillers intended to sell the site once its buildings were complete. Doma placed the building, now occupied by the Australian Taxation Office, back on the market before it was completed. “That is our building, it is our development at the moment,” said Mr Dixon. The written statement sent to Coast Community News after the interview with Mr Dixon said: “It is our intention that St Hilliers maintain an ongoing investment in the Department of Finance, Services and Innovation building.”

Mr Dixon said: “We’ve got a mixed-use retail precinct proposed for the balance of the site off the back of last year’s community consultation. “We are further engaging with the community over the next few months, we will be running focus groups and we will have a dedicated community consultation website which the community will be able to use to make comment and draw into the focus groups,” he said. “We have gone through with some Council planning on what we do propose for the balance of that site. “The precinct will have an element where the public can meander through as opposed to a locked off development. “It will be a development where people will have access right through the site, with food and beverage offerings of the type indicated by the community consultation, but we are not talking a shopping centre. “It will be a staged process and we have a little bit of time to bed down the mix of retail and entertainment … and there will be residential apartments in there.” Mr Dixon said St Hillers were “well aware” of the Coordinator General, Ms Lee Shearer’s, work with the Government Architect to activate Gosford CBD, but that it would not alter St Hillers’ plans.

He gave examples of recent St Hilliers’ projects that included public space in mixed-use developments, including a site near the Penrith train station and on the Kingston foreshore in the Australian Capital Territory, as examples of “How you can turn a development into an exciting new area”. “St Hillers is a trusted brand that has been able to create these precincts. “We are very excited to be involved in the Gosford project, as that has such a great connection point between the end of Mann St and the open space, and we are looking forward to presenting our master plan and delivering.” The Department of Finance building is expected to be complete by the end of 2018. The masterplan for the remaining third of the land will be finalised over the coming months following the next community consultation and focus group process, and then St Hilliers will lodge a development application with Central Coast Council. The scope of the project and its expected value will mean it will most likely be determined by the Joint Regional Planning Panel.

Source: Media statement, Feb 8 Katey Small, Brilliant Logic Interview, Feb 7 Mark Dixon, St Hilliers Media statement, Feb 14 Media unit, Property NSW Jackie Pearson, journalist