Ask Mary-Jane Salier — known simply as ‘MJ’ — why she and her husband, Kris Gale, have bought a penthouse off the plan in the Surry Hills Village development during a pandemic and she’s matter of fact.
“Yes, it’s a tricky time, but I’m an optimist at heart,” she said.
“TOGA [the developer] does have an excellent reputation for delivering a quality product and I feel as though we know what we’re getting.”
And MJ, who leads the international regulatory team for US-based communications company Verizon, and Kris, who presents Fire Up! on FBi Radio, aren’t the only “optimists”.
Just three of the eight penthouses remain for sale, priced from $5.15m to $6.25m, offering luxurious 200 sqm internal spaces with city skyline views and terraces as big as 274 sqm.
As MJ says, there’s nothing else like it in their chosen inner-city patch: “The already built houses there are kind of small with lots of levels.”
And Surry Hills Village is no ordinary project. With construction expected to start late this year or early next, the grungy shopping centre often unkindly referred to as ‘Murder Mall’ on the 1.2 hectare site is set to be replaced in a residential, retail, hotel and commercial redevelopment valued at $450m.
Located on the corner of Cleveland and Baptist Streets, the SJB and BKH-designed apartments start at $875k for a 55 sqm one-bedder; $1.55m for an 81 sqm two-bedder and $2.65m for a 122 sqm three-bedder.
The project is expected to be complete by the end of 2023 or early 2024.
While the cheaper apartments don’t have off-street parking, perhaps importantly in the wake of COVID-19, they all come with a balcony or terrace.
The CEO of TOGA, Fabrizio Perilli, said he was happy with the current rate of sales, which were averaging one or two a week.
“With COVID, I think everyone’s had time to reflect and they’re looking at their home in a different light,” Perilli said.
“Most of us have had to adapt to working from home, and people are thinking more about accessibility of amenities, commercial and retail, being close to the CBD, Moore Park and open spaces.
“People want good-sized apartments with true studies and an extra bedroom, and they want good-sized terraces and balconies.”
He said that more than 30 of the 80 apartments released to the market so far had sold.
“We’re pretty happy with that — we’re ticking them off, Perilli said.
Most of the buyers were from a 5km radius — Surry Hills itself; the CBD; Darlinghurst; Camperdown; Potts Point; Elizabeth Bay and Paddington.
But also further afield — Mosman; Seaforth; St Ives; Dural and also parts of Asia.
MJ and Kris currently live in Willoughby, but the plan was always to pack up the two-storey house in their leafy neighbourhood and move somewhere more central.
“We’ve got a lot of friends on that side of the Bridge and it’s really close to our gym — Hiscoes [in Crown Street],” MJ said.
One of the deciding factors was that their cavoodles — Luma and Pixie — would be welcome. “If it was no pets, it would be no us, basically,” she said.
The outside area, plus the dog-friendly park on the edge of the development helped win them over.
TOGA’S street cred was important. It’s famous for mixed-use developments such as Boheme in Bondi Beach, which has among its retail offerings Messina, China Doll, A Tavolla and Ciccia Bella Italian Osteria owned by Icebergs restaurateur, Maurice Terzini.
And there’s also a Harris Farm.
Perilli said it was too early to finalise retailers at Surry Hills Village, but safe to assume some well-known names will be in there.
“We’ve got quality operators at Boheme and that’s exactly what we’re going to be doing at Surry Hills,” he said.
“I’m very passionate about that retail precinct.
“We’ve obviously got Coles, and they’re really starting to evolve now.
“And we‘re going to have lots of restaurants and cafes.
“It’s going to be a fantastic precinct, with everything you need in one spot … we want people to treat it as a meeting spot.
“It’s going to be quite an amazing development.”
And construction data out this week showed that there’s little prospect of a surge of new apartment development in such areas because of falling building activity during COVID-19.
Charter Hall Group’s Chris Freeman said a housing shortage was looming, particularly in Sydney’s east and on the northern beaches.
Development approvals for new housing this year sank to their lowest level in close to a decade, analysis of ABS data showed.
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