An artist’s impression of Riverside Tower

12 June 2014 — Plans are currently being assessed for the conversion of a riverside car park into the first premium mixed-use resi, retail and commercial high rise project in Parramatta.

Riverside Tower is a joint venture between developer and private investment firm LIDIS, the Parramatta City Council, and event and venue management firm Dockside Group. Together with construction partner Hutchinson Builders and architects Johnson Pilton Walker, the team aims to deliver a product that provides community benefit and integrates sustainability through design, materials and construction.

LIDIS development manager Elias McGrath told The Fifth Estate that the $250 million project was a highly strategic investment for LIDIS, as the firm believes Parramatta has a bright future as a major city centre.

Mr McGrath said LIDIS had identified a market gap for a residential opportunity to match the dramatic enhancement of the urban centre’s commercial offering.

A mix of public and private uses with a strong green theme

The plan for Riverside Tower comprises a three storey podium with retail, dining, a conference centre, events spaces, a gallery, exhibition spaces and a discovery centre that will be owned and operated by council. The centre will replace Parramatta Council’s existing Visitor and Heritage Centre. The uppermost level of the podium will feature a residents’ club with lap pool, sauna, spa, gym, enclosed sun terrace, terraced gardens, lounge areas and BBQ facilities.

A pedestrian colonnade is planned at ground level that will connect from the street frontage through the building and then beyond to a wider landscape plan of walkways, open green riverside space and cycleways.

The 37 levels above the podium will comprise 413 apartments ranging from studio to three bedroom apartments, skyhomes and penthouses. Mr McGrath said the JPW design ensures that all dwellings will have natural ventilation including operable windows, good solar access and occupiable balconies, which will improve energy efficiency by minimising the need for mechanical heating and cooling.

Appliance packages have been selected for energy efficiency, water-saving measures are being incorporated into all residential plumbing and tapware, and a gas-fired ring main hot water system will be installed to service all apartments.

Green Star the way of the future for venues

The discovery centre and Dockside conference centre are both registered for Green Star under the Public Building Design v1 tool, a commitment Mr McGrath said the team are excited about.

“I believe it is going to be more mandatory in the future for government and corporate groups to subscribe to those values in terms of the event spaces they hire,” he said.

“It was a strategic decision to apply for Green Star. It’s also the right thing to do, and it’s not too expensive. It is mostly a matter of replacing elements with more sustainable products, which are also more cost-effective and deliver greater long term value.

“Smart decisions now will pay off in the future.”

Assessing supply chain sustainability

The other aspect of the sustainable construction the team have paid significant attention to is the sustainability of the firms in the materials supply chain.

“We had the liberty to choose to explore all those opportunities, as we had plenty of time [during the planning phases],” Mr McGrath said.

“We looked into procurement, including aspects such as the sourcing of timber, and investigated whether the firms in the supply chain also apply the same sustainability criteria that we do. We visited factories, and checked out their processes. [As a developer] we align ourselves to suppliers that apply the same standards.”

Mr McGrath said Borg, the Sydney-based manufacturer for the particle board and medium-density fibreboard that will be used for the project, is a good example.

“They integrate the whole production process so it is efficient [with energy and raw materials] and sustainable.”

This, he said, included the sourcing of plantation grown timber, the re-use of timber waste and the minimisation of formaldehyde and VOCs.

Early involvement the key

The planning process has taken two years to date, with the builder involved from the early stages. Mr McGrath said this has had a number of benefits, including resolution of buildability issues, a thorough understanding of the waterside site’s constraints and opportunities, and value engineering in terms of cost efficiencies and program efficiencies designed into the project’s final plans.

“This is a template that should be followed more widely in the industry,” Mr McGrath said.

The other positive of early involvement of all parties was that the project has so many stakeholders, early collaboration has been the “only way to get the project through to completion in such a tight timeframe”, Mr MrGrath said, noting that two years from early stages to DA is a much shorter timeframe than many similar projects achieve.

“The whole team went through all the issues from the beginning,” he said.

“The general expectation [of those outside the team] is they assume because local government is partnered in the project, the path to approval is easier. The council are very much a joint venture partner, and because they are involved that makes every process more thorough. There are probity issues, so they are not approving the development – the Joint Regional Panel review everything, and the development application is going out to an independent consultant for assessment. It is a very intense kind of DA process.”

Ongoing mutual engagement

Ownership of the final building will be split between owner occupiers and investment buyers for the residential levels; Council, who will own and manage the Discovery centre, public domain and foreshore; and LIDIS, who will retain ownership of the retail areas and second floor conference centre and event space.

Mr McGrath said that LIDIS regarded building developments in close proximity to transport nodes as a “no brainer”.

“It is something we are looking to do strategically across New South Wales,” he said.

“And projects with government involvement are where our interest lies; they tend to be more complex developments, but they are the ones that align with our core values and principles.”

The team intends to break ground on the project this year, aiming for a final completion of 2017. The DA for a display suite in the Parramatta CBD has been approved, and construction on this is due to commence shortly, with a view towards a September 2014 opening.