A local council on the NSW south coast has put one of its most prominent parcels of land up for sale, and is looking for investors to come up with ideas for how to revitalise it.
The 8000-square-metre site with its iconic navy helicopter sitting high on a metal pole has for years greeted holidaymakers and locals as they drive into Nowra, a city about two and a half hours south of Sydney.
The site was at various times a club and a visitors information centre. It also has one of the earliest homesteads in the region as one of its buildings.
But in recent years the site has sat idle and, with a new$342 million bridge being built over the nearby river, the council and a newly formed local task force are hoping this is the perfect time to encourage and properly plan the development of the land either side of the river.
“There are a number of exciting possibilities for this gateway site,” said Robert Domm, director of the Shoalhaven City Council’s City Futures.
“One obvious idea is something in the tourism and hospitality space and council is inviting the market to put forward their innovative proposals.
“The council-owned site of 8112 square metres adjoining the Princes Highway just south of the bridge over the Shoalhaven River is an important gateway to the city of Nowra and an ideal location for an iconic development.”
The council is seeking expressions of interest for the property – whether a sale, a proposal for a joint venture or any other appropriate commercial arrangement.
They’ve refused to put a price on the site, but the recent sale of a caravan park next door – which may be turned into a hotel and tourism venture – realised $6 million.
The Nowra Riverfront Advisory Taskforce has been formed to canvas ideas, consult and advise on the foreshore locations, and then, hopefully, fast-track development. It comprises the council, state MPs, relevant agencies such as Transport for NSW and the local Aboriginal land council.
The state member for South Coast, Shelley Hancock, said she’d brought everyone together in a bid to get the vision, and any developers involved, organised before the bridge’s scheduled opening in 2024.
“We didn’t want to wait until after the bridge was finished and then say, ‘What are we going to do?’” she said.
“It’s a fantastic initiative to have all the key stakeholders work together to see how we can upgrade some pretty neglected areas around both sides of the river so we’ll know in advance what we want to do.
“The hospital in the area is also being upgraded and we have some traffic issues around there, so this is a good chance to upgrade everything at the same time.
“The council was paid $2 million for the sale of some of the land around the bridge for the work to take place, so they have some money, and so this is the perfect time to make sure we have some beautiful, beautiful space around the river so everyone can really enjoy it.”
The site isn’t free from controversy, however. The Nowra gateway site was put up for sale once before, in 2017, when the company Asset Group Solutions came up with a plan for two towers – one of six storeys and the other of four, containing a total of 73 apartments – with retail and commercial components.
It’s understood the decision to build a new bridge, however, suddenly added value to the surrounding land, so negotiations were halted, and a new scheme adopted for the task force to oversee any plans for both the southern and northern foreshores.
The 2017 proposal also included the renovation and refurbishment of an 1861 historic building on the site – Graham Lodge, the home of the first mayor of Shoalhaven – which would then be used as an art gallery, museum and function centre.
The tourist information service was relocated to the Shoalhaven Entertainment Centre in previous years and the old tourist building currently houses a Thai restaurant and some of the council’s staff.
The agent in charge of the sale, Geoff Jones of MMJ Wollongong, said the site at 10 Pleasant Way was zoned B4 with three street frontages. Expressions of interests close on June 24. Beyond that, however, he said the council had asked him not to comment.
After the task force approves an applicant’s plans, they will go out for public comment, Ms Hancock said.
“I don’t think anyone in the community will object to the chance to improve the local area,” she said. “We’ll all be working together.
“We know we don’t want massive high rises in Shoalhaven, but we want something aesthetically pleasing to the community and that will enhance both sides of the river.”
Mr Domm said the helicopter would definitely stay as it was protected under a covenant and had a 200-square-metre parcel of land around it, and added that any plans would see Graham Lodge well looked after.
“All proposals will be considered on their merits consistent with the council and state government vision for the development of the Nowra riverfront,” he said.
“In addition, council’s ambition is to see the historically significant building of Graham Lodge suitably restored and brought back into useful active life.
“In the right circumstances, a joint venture or public-private partnership may be the appropriate commercial vehicle to deliver the best result for the people of Nowra; we’re leaving it open to investors to put their ideas forward and are open-minded about what is possible.”
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