Prolific Sydney developer Billbergia has seized upon a New South Wales government strategy for higher density living around key transport hubs, revealing details of a big master-planned community just 11 kilometres west of the CBD.

The $335-million mixed-use precinct would sit on a 3.14ha site at Concord West, developed around 10 buildings of between 4 to 12 storeys with more than 700 apartments and townhouses.

Billbergia has been joined by long-time partner, the private lender Metrics Investment Partners, in a joint venture to deliver the community that’s just a stone’s throw from the Concord West rail station.

The plans came to light when the partners requested amendments to the Canada Bay City Council’s local environmental plan, which, if passed, will allow maximum heights of up to nearly six times what they are now, as well as changes to floor space ratios.

The proposed amendments would also rezone the site at 1 King Street to R3 Medium Density Residential, with the ability to include commercial premises.

“To be able to obtain a 4ha consolidated site connected to the railway station to create a new community, surrounded by all the town-centre amenity that anyone could want, is extraordinary,” Billgergia development director Rick Graf told The Urban Developer.

Graf said the vision for the proposed development of the site is to facilitate a new neighbourhood that included a mix of retail, commercial and residential uses.

“It will be a sustainable, transit-oriented development that re-integrates the site into its surrounds, and provides activation, green infrastructure and civic spaces,” he said.

Billbergia acquired the site in 2019, including a 36-year-old office building—long used as a call-centre for the Westpac Bank. The bank vacated the building at the height of the pandemic.

“The existing industrial zoning and business operation no longer represents the most appropriate use of the land, particularly given the size of the site, and the strategic location,” town planners Ethos Urban told the Canada Bay Council in an 85-page planning report.

Westpac’s departure gave Billbergia the impetus for a fresh look at what is described as “a significant site adjacent to a heavy railway station” just 8km south-east of Parramatta. There were five pre-lodgement meetings with the council and developers between May and September in 2022.

The partners’ plans call for 698 apartments of one, two, three and four bedrooms, as well as 18 townhouses.

About 7600sq m of non-residential floor space would be given over to a supermarket, specialty shops, cafes and other food and beverage outlets.

An “urban village” to the south of the development site would include acmedical centre, gymnasium, and possibly a tavern. An existing childcare centre on the property would be reintegrated into the new development.

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▲ An artist’s impression of the planned urban village.

There would be a new loop road through the site, connecting King and George streets, and a north-south through-site link of about 2500sq m for pedestrian and cycle access.

The construction phase of the project is expected to create about 460 jobs and deliver a direct value-add to the economy of $74.5 million, according to Ethos Urban.

The developers want a gross floor area of about 83,100sq m with a floor space ratio of 2.65:1.  The 10 buildings would have maximum heights of between 26m and 47 metres.

But while at its meeting in December last year Canada Bay councillors voted to endorse the planning proposal—and send it to the Department of Planning and Environment with a request for gateway determination—they have imposed conditions.

These include reducing the floor space ratio to 2.23:1, and reducing the maximum height of the buildings.

“Given the location, a combination of courtyard apartments (between three and six storeys) and perimeter block apartments (four to nine storeys) would be more appropriate to the context,” the city’s director of environment and planning wrote in a report to the council.

He said an independent urban designer had recommended retaining the current 20m maximum building height.

“A 20m height limit would also ensure the site more closely resembles future development located on the lower lying western side of George Street, which has a 22m maximum building height,” the director wrote.

For now, the developers remain unconcerned.

As part of their lodgement the joint venturers have offered a voluntary planning agreement, which would design, fund and build road upgrades to the intersection of George and Pomeroy street, North Strathfield. The cost of land acquisition and construction is estimated to be about $9.2 million.

They also agree to pay $808,764 towards stormwater drainage upgrades to George Street. 

December’s council meeting was told the offer was contingent on “the floor space ratio and building height as originally proposed being progressed”.

“The whole strategy of the Minns’ (NSW) government has been to densify around railway stations and provide housing and jobs with transport, at transport, and meeting all of those strategic needs,” Billbergia’s Graf said.

He points to the NSW government’s so-called Transport-Oriented Developments (TOD) land-use plan announced late last year, which according to the government “encourages sustainable and mixed-use development around transport and aims to create vibrant and walkable communities”.

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▲ An artist’s impression of the planned station precinct at Concord West.

“This project of ours, in which we made the investment decision a couple of years ago, is all about getting high-density housing and jobs at railway stations,” Graf said.

“We believe the site is capable of supporting considerably more height that the council,” he said.  “And we think our view is consistent with the view of government about TOD projects and high-density, costed around transport nodes with suitable levels of amenity.

“We’ll accept whatever we get from council as a first step, but we won’t give up on the vision for having more housing, because nationally, regionally and locally we need additional housing.”

Originally posted on The Urban Developer – RALPH NICHOLSON, MON 15 JAN 24

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