It’s a quiet slice of Sydney’s city fringe that’s perhaps best known for its historic streets, stunning harbour views and converted wharves.
But the introduction of a nearby metro station and the imminent return of several of the city’s leading art institutions following a $127 million government-funded transformation could see the tiny precinct of Walsh Bay pushed into the spotlight.
Tim Noonan, of Noonan Property, is talking up Walsh Bay’s future potential as he prepares to sell an office in one of the old converted wharves.
The Baranagaroo Metro station – which will be located beneath the northern end of Hickson Road, south of Munn Street in Millers Point, about 700 metres from the property – will be “huge” for Walsh Bay, opening the precinct to commuters and employers who may previously have dismissed the area as too inaccessible as a business hub, he says.
In addition to the metro station, the level of development on either end of Walsh Bay, including major office projects in Barangaroo and Circular Quay, will help raise Walsh Bay’s profile.
“That scale of development, which is still going, is obviously going to overflow into Walsh Bay. We kind of see that Walsh Bay will eventually become the midpoint between Barangaroo to Circular Quay for people walking between the two.”
The completion of the state government’s renovation of the Walsh Bay Arts Precinct is also likely to boost evening and weekend foot traffic.
The project, which involves the renovation of existing performance spaces and construction of new spaces, is tipped to transform Walsh Bay into the city’s preeminent cultural and performing arts precinct, home to the Sydney Theatre Company, Sydney Dance Company and Bell Shakespeare among others.
Increased activity, tight supply
Urban planning expert Wesley Folitarik, managing director of Urbanism, said the effect of new transport links on surrounding areas was well documented and that Walsh Bay would be no exception.
“Walsh Bay will definitely benefit from increased activity with the introduction of Barangaroo Metro station,” he said.
That will include an increase in pedestrians as well as cyclists.
“Any time there’s a new transport link, it encourages that,” Mr Folitarik said.
While this increase in traffic would lead to greater commercial opportunities, the restrictions on development in the heritage area meant that future commercial expansion was unlikely.
“Naturally with its proximity to Barangaroo, it does lend itself to more investment and activation but it’s important to remember that it is part of the Millers Point preservation area, meaning it’s highly constrained from a heritage standpoint. In terms of new high-density development, there’s not a lot of scope for new development,” Mr Folitarik said.
“There’s not a great deal of new build potential – it’s restricted to adaptive resuse, which means pretty much staying within the existing built form.”
Mr Folitarik pointed to the recently announced blueprint for the Central Station precinct and Pyrmont/Ultimo fish markets revitalisation as well as the section of the Pacific Highway between North Sydney and St Leonards as areas that would likely continue the urban renewal legacy of Barangaroo.
For its part, development lobby group the Urban Taskforce believes that the state government should explore opportunities to encourage more high-density development in the Walsh Bay precinct to coincide with the opening of the new train station, with a focus on residential development.
“The completion of the new Metro line represents an opportunity for the NSW government to approve taller, higher-density, mixed-use buildings with a strong residential component in Walsh Bay,” said Tom Forrest, the Taskforce’s chief executive.
“The new station at Barangaroo will stimulate strong demand for additional residential apartment buildings in the Walsh Bay precinct,” he added.
Industrial charm with harbour views
The Shore Studios – Mirvac’s 2004 transformation of the early 1900s shore sheds, alongside Pier 2 and 3 of the Walsh Bay wharves, into 22 strata offices – is the only commercial strata office development in the precinct, with tenants including private equity firm Archer Capital.
Spread over two levels, the 382-square-metre office that is up for sale features cathedral ceilings, four car spaces and recently renovated interiors, with kitchen and bathroom facilities, Mr Noonan said.
“It’s a very unique space, it offers harbour views with industrial warehouse features. You can’t find that anywhere around the Wynyard precinct,” he said.
The property is on the market for the first time since being purchased from Mirvac in 2004.
Mr Noonan also noted that Walsh Bay was one of the few areas in Sydney where you could buy, rather than rent, a harbourfront office.
“You can’t buy into Barangaroo – if you wanted to buy a strata office – you can only lease. To buy your own office premises, the market is really tight and really small,” he said.
The Walsh Bay office, which is being sold with vacant possession, was suitable for owner-occupiers and investors, but “the buyer pool for these sorts of properties is generally 80 per cent owner-occupier”.
Price expectations for the property were currently at $4.25 million, Mr Noonan said.
12/13 Hickson Road is scheduled for auction on March 10.
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