Lend Lease has won the right to develop the former Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre site in Darling Harbour, a project that includes the construction of a 900-room hotel.

The builder is part of the ‘Destination Sydney’ consortium – alongside Hostplus, Capella Capital, AEG Ogden and Spotless – that has just been announced (Nov 11) as the preferred developer of the AUD$1 billion project by the New South Wales Government.

The project, which is equally funded by Lend Lease’s Capella Capital and super fund Hostplus, includes a proposed 900-room hotel as well as 1,400 residential apartments.

The consortium will now “work with Infrastructure NSW and enter into a AUD$1 billion Public Private Partnership (PPP) to design, construct, finance, maintain and operate the convention, exhibition and entertainment facilities”, according to Lend Lease.

Lend Lease has also confirmed the PPP capital commitments “are fully underwritten, and Lend Lease will invest 50 per cent of the equity alongside Hostplus with debt being provided by a syndicate of local and overseas banks”.

AEG Ogden will manage the new facility, to be called International Convention Centre Sydney (ICC Sydney), one that will include:
-A convention facility capable of holding four fully separated concurrent events of over 12000 delegates;
-Total exhibition capacity of 40,000 square metres;
-An external event deck of 5,000 square metres featuring spectacular city views;
-A premier red carpet theatre with a capacity of 8,000 suitable for international entertainment; acts and being used for major convention plenary sessions;
-A Grand Ballroom to provide Sydney’s premium banqueting space for more than 2,000; and
-A new ICC hotel complex with up to 900 rooms.

New South Wales Premier Barry O’Farrell welcomed the redevelopment, saying it is “one of the most exciting urban renewal projects the city has ever seen”.

The transformation of the 20-hectare precinct at Darling Harbour – one that stretches from Cockle Bay to Ultimo – would generate about AUD$5 billion in economic benefit for NSW.

“Along with the development of Barangaroo, this project will transform the western fringe of Sydney’s Central Business District and is the biggest and most exciting change to Darling Harbour in 25 years,” O’Farrell said.

“This plan will create jobs for 1,600 people during the three year construction, which starts at the end of 2013, and provide ongoing employment for 4,000 people across the precinct.”

Opening in late 2016, the new world-class exhibition, convention and entertainment facilities “are aimed at ensuring Sydney remains the choice in Australia and Asia Pacific for the competitive – and lucrative – business events industry”, O’Farrell said.

The new convention, exhibition and entertainment facilities will be built north of Pier St, while the new urban neighbourhood will be created south of Pier St on the site of the existing Sydney Entertainment Centre and car park.

“The redevelopment goes far beyond improving facilities – it’s also about re-shaping the city. Darling Harbour already attracts 25 million people a year and this development will create a more vibrant place on Sydney Harbour,” O’Farrell said.

The existing Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre will close December 2013. The new facilities and the improved public spaces at Darling Harbour will be opened in December 2016. Construction will commence on The Haymarket in 2014, allowing the existing Sydney Entertainment Centre to remain open until December 2015.

Infrastructure NSW will now enter into detailed negotiations to finalise the contract in the first half of 2013. The contract is for Destination Sydney to build the convention, exhibition and entertainment facilities and then maintain and operate for 25 years as well as the development rights for The Haymarket and hotel complex.

O’Farrell said Destination Sydney will work with Infrastructure NSW to enter into Project Development Agreements to develop the hotel complex and The Haymarket site, which is adjacent to the convention and exhibition site, with an anticipated end development value of about $1.5 billion.

Destination Sydney beat a VeNuSW – comprising Plenary Group, Brookfield Multiplex Services and Suntec International Convention and Exhibition Services for the right to develop ICC Sydney.

James Wilkinson

Editor-In-Chief, Hotel Management