26/08/2019 - 14:18

Eight years, $83m, Waterbank still a sandpit

26/08/2019 - 14:18

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Buildings are still not coming out of the ground at one of Perth’s premium pieces of riverside real estate, despite $83 million of investment by the state government in the nearly eight years after a developer was appointed.

Eight years, $83m, Waterbank still a sandpit
Comprehensive site works have been undertaken at Waterbank, but construction is yet to take place. Photo: Gabriel Oliveira

Buildings are still not coming out of the ground at one of Perth’s premium pieces of riverside real estate, despite $83 million of investment by the state government in the nearly eight years after a developer was appointed.

And the Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority still would not say when development of apartments and offices would be able to start at Waterbank, even with an additional $23 million budgeted to be spent on preparing the precinct in 2019-20.

Waterbank was unveiled by the Barnett Liberal state government in 2010 as the cornerstone precinct of the 40-hectare Riverside redevelopment area.

The MRA said this month it was working within agreed timetables with its development partner Lendlease, despite announcing on two separate occasions – in June 2015 and again in May 2016 – that the site was nearing readiness for building to begin.

The first building proposed to be built at Waterbank is nearly two years past its scheduled delivery date, having been expected to be complete by late 2017.

“Waterbank, like other projects close to river systems, is a challenging geotechnical site,” an MRA spokesperson told Business News when asked why it had taken so long for the site to be prepared.

“As a result, a great deal of work is needed to overcome the complex hydrological ground conditions.”

By contrast, shovels were in the ground in April 2012 at Elizabeth Quay, with construction of the $440 million inlet and associated infrastructure complete and the precinct ready for developers by January 2016.

At Waterbank, the site’s challenges include having to contend with 20-30 metres of mushy layers of sediment and sand (once described as the texture of toothpaste) above the bedrock upon which the site sits.

Earlier this year, engineering group Arup was appointed to independently survey the site to determine if building could begin, nearly three years after the second announcement from the MRA that compaction works had been completed.

The MRA spokesperson said Arup’s scope of works were scheduled to be complete by September.

“The technical work currently under way will ensure an appropriate engineering response to facilitate the proposed development,” the spokesperson said.

“Enabling infrastructure works have been completed. Further site works will continue over the balance of the year.”

Budget papers for the 2018-19 financial year show $106 million had been spent by the state government as of June 30 at Riverside, $83.2 million of which the MRA confirmed had been spent at Waterbank.

A further $23.5 million has been budgeted to be spent in 2019-20 at Waterbank, to continue infrastructure and public domain works.

The MRA said the investment at the site had gone towards overcoming those geotechnical and structural challenges, external services works, road upgrades, removal of in-ground obstruction, and site surcharging.

Lendlease WA general manager of development, Anthony Rowbottam, said the developer was firmly committed to working through the challenges of the site with the MRA.

Lendlease first submitted development applications for Waterbank in 2015, seeking approval to build a 32-level tower containing 369 apartments.

The developer also lodged plans in 2018 for a commercial tower at the precinct, comprising either a five- or six-level building.

A fresh development application for a 15-storey apartment tower was lodged by Lendlease late last month.

“Planning for the construction of the public realm is ongoing with further earthworks, construction of pedestrian access ways and access roads within the site, as well as the realignment of the cycle path expected to commence shortly,” Mr Rowbottam said.

Lendlease’s $1.3 billion vision for Waterbank includes dwellings for 1,500 residents and a similar number of people working in commercial and retail buildings on the riverside site.

Proposed features of Waterbank include a new inlet, and urban beach, landscaped boardwalks, public art, walkways, cycle paths, a river playground, short-stay accommodation and local shops.

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