It’s not just A-list celebrities and wealthy entrepreneurs descending on Byron Bay; investors, developers and publicans with deep pockets are also lining up to buy into the coastal hot spot.
But, a flurry of development interest, coupled with soaring property prices, has raised concerns in the local community.
The latest listing to turn heads in town is The Sun hotel, which is being offloaded by KTQ Group, the owners and operators of the upmarket Elements of Byron resort.
It follows a string of seven-figure sales over the past 18 months — including the Byron Bay Holiday Village Backpackers, The Bower Byron Bay, Byron at Byron, The Farm Byron Bay and the Byron Beach Hotel.
“I hate saying it but Byron Bay is incredibly hot property,” said CBRE Hotels national director Wayne Bunz, appointed to sell The Sun.
With international travel off the cards, holidaymakers have flocked to Byron Bay since the national lockdown ended, sending the residential and commercial property markets into overdrive.
“That leg of travel between Sydney and Ballina is probably one of the most travelled routes in the country at the moment,” Mr Bunz said.
Offering typical pub food and a gaming area, The Sun is a modern but modest venue in what was once Byron Bay’s industrial estate, now referred to as the Arts Estate or “North Beach”.
The site of the hotel was part of a massive piece of land near Belongil Beach acquired by the wealthy Flannery family in 2010. With founder Peggy Flannery as managing director, KTQ Group went on to develop the $100 million luxury wellness resort Elements of Byron while also establishing and operating The Sun just up the road.
With price expectations of more than $10 million, The Sun sits on a 7600-square-metre parcel of land zoned mixed use, offering rare development potential.
Mr Bunz said he expected the property to sell before expressions of interest close at the end of March, citing “high barriers” to get into the broader Byron market.
“There’s only so much land and the council are pretty harsh in giving way to development,” he said.
JLL Hotels national director John Musca, who last month inked an $18.55 million deal for the Byron Bay Holiday Village Backpackers, agreed that development opportunities in town were heavily contested because they were limited.
“The commercial property market [in Byron Bay] has always been strong anyway because the council has a measured approach to development to preserve the aesthetics and the environment,” Mr Musca said.
“You only have to drive up to the Gold Coast to see the difference.”
On Jonson Street, a shopping and retail thoroughfare earmarked for development, the Byron Bay Holiday Village Backpackers attracted 150 direct inquiries.
And, the intensifying interest in Byron meant investors and purchasers were prepared to buy on an unconditional basis, Mr Musca said.
Sydney developer Podia purchased the 4500-square-metre site, promising not to “create a monstrosity”.
“When you have the word Byron involved, it attracts a range of investors,” he said.
“We sold the Byron Bay Beach Hotel for $104 million a year ago and even at that level, the spread of balance sheets and profile of buyers is astounding.”
Development applications have not come without controversy and community opposition.
A sprawling 146-room hotel proposal on Jonson Street was knocked back late last year. The Essence of Byron development garnered 423 objections from the public following a campaign from an active local community group.
The Byron Residents’ Group also campaigned against aspects of a new housing subdivision known as West Byron, which went on to be approved albeit at a much smaller scale than initially proposed.
The group’s founder and independent Byron Shire councillor Cate Coorey said: “We are at the nexus of a gentrification process and a touristification process.
Mr Musca does not expect the level of investor interest in Byron Bay to fall away anytime soon.
“A lot of people that usually go overseas for Christmas just discovered Byron for the first time,” Mr Musca said, adding “every man and his dog was in Byron” over summer.
“I think you can never take that awareness away now.”
This article has been updated since publication.
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