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Sydney office tower stands empty for months during record-low vacancy

August 9, 2018

The Hunter Street tower has been empty for three months while workmen fix the flooding and other issues. Photo: Mark Merton Photography

A 15-storey building in central Sydney has lain empty for three months at a time of record-low vacancy in the CBD, after flooding knocked out power to the office tower’s airconditioning, heating and sewerage pumps.

Occupants of Currency House, a strata-owned office tower at 23 Hunter Street on the corner with Pitt Street, had to evacuate after flooding in the basement caused by damage to an underground water main, destroyed the main electrical board for the building.

While hopes are for a return to the building late this month, or early next month, tenants and users of the building – most of whom had to desperately find alternative space at short notice – do not know when they will be able to return.

“At this stage, work continues to the building; we hope to be in a position to reopen the 23 Hunter Street branch again as soon as possible once building works are complete,” said a spokesman for NAB, which occupies a ground floor lease.

“In the interim, NAB customers are being directed to the nearby NAB on George branch at 333 George Street or 130 Pitt Street branch.”

There is a lack of clarity. The strata committee managing the building declined to comment. Building manager Simon Scott declined to comment and referred queries to insurance provider BAC Brokers, which he said was managing the claim. BAC did not respond to request for comment.

While the strata building’s insurance is likely to cover the costs of building occupants, finding alternative accommodation in a Sydney office market already tipped to go below the 4 per cent vacancy rate – largely due to stock withdrawal – has been tough.

“We had two to three [occupants] call us seeking urgent help,” said one commercial leasing agent. “Because there’s such a low vacancy, it’s not easy to find short-term accommodation for tenants.

“Some have found alternative accommodation, some are working from home. Others are finding their own solutions,” the agent said.

Chiropractor Billy Khan leases space in the building.

“We know a lot of other chiropractors,” Mr Khan said. “It was very easy to relocate. For [others] it was very difficult.”

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