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Blackstone’s architect Paul Saunders turns from poacher to gamehunter

February 14, 2018

Paul Saunders plans a complete redesign for the Summer Centre in Orange. Photo: Supplied

The architect for private equity group Blackstone’s shopping centre redevelopments, Paul Saunders, has purchased a shopping centre of his own for more than $22 million.

In a joint venture with the founder of Sydney’s Oscar Hotels, Bill Gravanis, Mr Saunders has bought the Summer Centre in the NSW regional town of Orange.

And in what some might say is a similar approach to his biggest client – Blackstone – he has purchased it from the administrators of failed owner Primespace Developments.

“This is an opportunity for me to practise my skills on something I actually own,” Mr Saunders told The Australian Financial Review.

“I guess its poacher turned game hunter.”

The Summer Centre has a 2500 square metre development block. Photo: Supplied

The Summer Centre has a 2500 square metre development block. Photo: Supplied

Mr Saunders has been the architect behind some of the biggest retail redesigns in Australia including Blackstone’s Top Ryde shopping centre in Sydney, which Blackstone bought from receivers McGrathNicol for $341 million.

His intention for the Summer Centre is a complete redesign.

“I think the centre has been a bit unloved and I think it needs to be better positioned,” Mr Saunders said.

Affluent country town

“We need to bring in some new retailers that better represent the style this centre deserves. Orange is a pretty, clean and affluent country town and there is a lot of potential here.”

The Summer Centre is a 5110 square metre centre anchored by a Super IGA and Dan Murphy’s. The centre, which sold on a yield of about 7 per cent, was sold with a 2500 square metre development site attached which Mr Saunders will develop.

CBRE’s Mark Wizel, Justin Dowers and Nick Willis negotiated the sale of the property on behalf of the administrators, Optimum Finance.

The centre sits opposite the Orange City Centre which saw Myer close its store in 2016 as well as the failed Dick Smith electronics.

Mr Saunders said the right retail mix would be essential with more fresh food and alfresco dining and less sporting, electronics and specialist retailing.

The Gravanis are well known hoteliers who bought the Novotel Wollongong Northbeach Hotel from Canadian group Brookfield.

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