Chinese Firm Moves to Offload Southbank Skyscraper Site


Chinese investor NewCity Developments Group is looking to offload a last-of-its-kind site already approved for what would be among Melbourne’s tallest buildings.

Discussions are under way to find a partner, or to sell the key site.

NewCity, headquartered in the southern Chinese port city of Guangzhou, first won approval from the then-minister for planning for a twisting, multi-coloured, 69-storey glass tower on Melbourne’s Southbank in April of 2017

The plans called for a 233m hotel and apartment development on 1790sq m at 51-65 Clarke Street—a site in the middle of the South Melbourne lifestyle precinct, close to the Melbourne CBD and Crown Casino entertainment complex as well as the Melbourne arts confines.

Now, six years later, the developers are looking to sell all or part of the project.

NewCity managing director Michael Cao told The Urban Developer there were no immediate plans to begin construction.

“That will depend upon negotiations we are having with a build-to-rent operator,” he said.

“Currently we’re looking for a joint-venture partner, and we think a build-to-rent operator is possible.

“They would keep the apartments and use them as build-to-rent or build-to-sell,” Cao said.  “We just want to keep the hotel.”

▲ Plans for the 69-storey Southbank tower were first approved in 2017.

Cao said they were in discussions with one operator, via an agent, but no agreements had been signed. He would not name the operator.

Selling the entire project was also an option, he said.

“To be honest if an agent approached us with a very good offer, our head office has said they might consider it.  We don’t want to go to public market, we don’t want to do that.  We much prefer off-market.”

One property developer familiar with the project, but who would not be named, said the DA-approved site was likely to fetch between “the high $40s and low $50 million”.  It is understood there is at least one offer on the table between those numbers.

Online documents show NewCity acquired the site in 2014, paying $30.4 million.

Twelve months ago the developer successfully sought amendments to the originally-approved plans.  While the number of apartments and hotel keys continues to fluctuate—it is currently approved for 350 apartments and 220 rooms—the main change was in the building’s Elenberg Fraser architectural design.

▲ Gone from the amended plans is the earlier twisting curvature of the of the Southbank tower.

While the buildings footprint, height and 53,313sq m of gross floor area remain much the same, the latest plans have done away with the twisting design.

Cao conceded the curvature in the building was a problem in terms of functionality, floor plates and building costs.

“Let’s say the updated amendment means the building will be more straightforward, and very different from the first time we applied for the permit,” he said.

Critically, under the latest amendments NewCity was given a two-year extension on the original permit, taking the starting date for the development to April 2026. And further adding value to an already key inner city development site.

At 323m, Australia 108—also in Southbank—is Melbourne’s tallest completed building.  If built to current plans, NewCity’s Clarke Street development would be the 14th tallest in the city.


Subscribe to our newsletter to continue reading.

Join 50,000 property professionals who stay up to date with our newsletters. Stay ahead of market trends with Australia’s most trusted property journalism.

Article originally posted at: