09/11/2011 - 10:25

Long-term partners focus on iconic sites

09/11/2011 - 10:25


Save articles for future reference.
Long-term partners focus on iconic sites

LONG-TIME business partners Con Berbatis and George Atzemis are best known in property circles for their retail investments, but sluggish consumer spending has sharpened the pair’s focus on Perth’s booked-out hotelsector.

The friends are joint owners of Plaza Arcade in the CBD and Kardinya Park shopping centre, as well as the recently upgraded Waterford Plaza shopping centre opposite Curtin University, valued at $80 million.

Mr Berbatis and Mr Atzemis undertook a two-stage expansion of the centre, which doubled its retail capacity to more than 13,000sqm and centred around a ‘high street’ featuring al fresco restaurant and cafe dining.

But their acquisition of the Holiday Inn Hotel on Hay Street for $44 million in 2009 diversified the business partners’ portfolio and gave them exposure to the business travel market.

Significant work has already been undertaken on the hotel property’s basement and Mr Berbatis revealed the focus now was on transforming the ground floor food and beverage facilities as well as the first floor.

“What we are now doing is planning a redevelopment of the ground floor, it will be really smart, London-style food and beverage on Hay Street,” Mr Berbatis said.

“And the first floor will be totally revamped into bedrooms.”

Their investment in the Holiday Inn property points to the pair’s confidence in Perth’s hotel sector as well as their appetite for further acquisitions.

It’s understood they were recently pipped at the post in their bid to buy the New Esplanade Hotel in the city, but the experience hasn’t dimmed their enthusiasm for this slice of the city property market.

The state government unveiled a raft of initiatives in late October in a bid to stimulate hotel construction.

Despite significant jumps in occupancy and room rates in Perth’s hotel sector, there has been very little investment in hotel properties during the past five years.

“Having diversified into hospitality we now have it in our sites more avidly than retail,” Mr Berbatis said.

“Retail is going through hard times and as such we have to be very careful, whereas hospitality, particularly hotels and especially CBD hotels are the beneficiaries of the economic acceleration of the mining industry.”

However their singular focus, no matter what the property, has always been on enhancing their investments and transforming them into icons of an area.

It’s an ethos Mr Atzemis said was central to their long-running battle to expand and redevelop the Waterford Plaza, formerly the Village Green, Karawara.

“What I love about it (redevelopment) is you go into these things as an investment but somehow it works out that we make a nice contribution to the community,” Mr Atzemis said.

“We take it from being an ugly duckling to something people are really proud of.”

Mr Atzemis and Mr Berbatis have owned Waterford since about 1990 when it was a small, run-down neighbourhood centre that was losing customers to Booragoon and the Heart of the Park centre in Victoria Park.

The most recent expansion work has transformed Waterford into the largest shopping complex in the City of South Perth, with 65 retailers including two national supermarket chains.

A tavern is under construction and a lease has been signed with the Hippo Creek chain, while Singaporean chain Old Chang Kee will launch its first Australian outlet at the centre in early 2012.



Subscription Options