Battling adversity, Commercial & General’s Eighty Eight O’Connell project speaks of trust, quality and community spirit, writes the developer’s executive chair, Jamie McClurg…
The idea that 7500sq m of prime real estate along a main thoroughfare on the fringes of a capital city could lie dormant for more than three decades would seem completely unthinkable to many.
But for Adelaide, it was a grim reality—a seemingly never-ending saga of broken promises that would drag on for generations.
O’Connell Street is the main boulevard of North Adelaide, one of the city’s oldest and most sought-after residential areas. Starting on top of the hill overlooking the city, the street winds its way past St Peter’s Cathedral and the Adelaide Oval as it feeds into the heart of the CBD.
So, when an iconic local furniture store closed its doors in 1989, conversation quickly turned to what should replace the tired built form on more than 100m of valuable street frontage.
Then, all of a sudden, nothing happened.
Various grand solutions were floated and then shelved, the site was bought and sold, arguments raged about design parameters, NIMBYs became emboldened and lawyers got rich.
All the while, the North Adelaide community and retailers had to put up with a huge missing tooth in the suburb’s visage and an open wound in their collective psyche.
Now, I am pleased to say that our company, through an integrated development-to-construction business, is delivering the largest residential apartment project in Adelaide’s history on the site. Eighty Eight O’Connell will deliver 180 apartments and penthouses in three towers that will sit across three levels of connected retail and commercial space.
The calibre of amenity servicing this development has never been seen before in Adelaide. A skypark overlooking North Adelaide, community garden, full-service restaurant, indoor pool, outdoor pool, sauna, spa and multiple wellness studios, all provide residents unmatched liveability in a vertical village.
Anchored by ground-floor retail, Italian food market, artisan coffee, wine bar and more—this space will seamlessly intersect with the O’Connell Street streetscape and community.
In doing so, we are finally reversing 34 years of stagnation in a 34-month build program.
We’re on time, we’re on brief and, with more than 70 per cent sold, there’s an enthusiasm that is infectious.
Testament to the support of the project is the large majority of purchasers being owner-occupiers, already living within a 5km radius of the project.
Seismic transformation is happening, and it’s exciting.
But it has not been easy.
We had to work hard to sell our vision to a cynical community and to the market. It was a message of trust. As a company, we would not have delivered projects with an end value in excess of $2 billion without having trust both as a core value and an inherent behaviour throughout the 25 years of our organisation’s history.
We wanted our community to know that we were approaching this project with the same absolute commitment to quality that has made us the state’s leading developer.
We could feel reassured that we invest our own money in our projects because we completely believe in the intrinsic value we’re delivering.
As construction costs escalated, we refused to let quality be compromised.
We have stood firm on our commitment to deliver against our promise and that is being carried through every day by our building division, Tandem Building Group, in collaboration with contractors.
The project has also tested our resilience.
We’ve battled misinformation spread by a hard rump of nay-sayers, we’ve had to defend our reputation in court and, because of our partnerships with the city council, we have been subject to political grandstanding and freedom-of-information requests.
We’ve dealt with all these challenges with transparency and equanimity because of our values.
At Commercial & General, projects we undertake mean something to both our business and to our community.
We like to work on projects that are intellectually and, in a sense, publicly challenging.
It takes a lot to take on other projects where others have failed.
And we’re succeeding because we stay the course–both in terms of the promises we make to our community and to each other.
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