Any landlord pondering the best way to deal with a run-down or outdated commercial property being shunned by tenants can take inspiration from the example set by a Perth syndicate faced with this exact predicament.

One of the syndicate’s assets was a lack-lustre, D-grade building left to decay by previous owners despite a location in the heart of the Perth’s CBD. Instead of divesting the ugly duckling at 7 Queen Street, the syndicate decided to pursue the power that boldness is said to possess and, despite having no anchor tenant in sight, forged ahead with a creative, unique vision for the heritage property that would lift it beyond even the former glory it once had.

The subsequent refashioned building was unlike anything the surrounding area had seen in years – and so successful it not only attracted a high-end furniture retailer as a tenant before construction was completed earlier this year, but has since triggered the transformation of the surrounding precinct .

Primewest in-house leading manager Jemma Hutchinson said the redevelopment of 7 Queen Street from an eyesore into a boutique, flagship showroom for a luxury goods tenant had effectively future-proofed a tired, run down asset and made it a landmark destination. “This building now draws the attention of everyone who passes by,” Ms Hutchinson said.

Built to inspire

Better still, it had inspired other landlords in the immediate vicinity to look at their options, Ms Hutchinson noted, as a number of high end furniture retailers have since either taken up premises in Queen Street or were looking closely at doing so. A number of C and D grade building owners were now considering ways of improving their own buildings to accommodate these new upscale tenants, while the redevelopment of the adjoining Raine Square area was also attracting a range of high-end retailers to the area for the first time.

“This is the birth of a new, prestige retail precinct for the city,” Ms Hutchinson said.

 “What has been and is being done in Queen Street could be replicated in other areas of the property market that are also struggling.

“It just goes to show the ability of a creative and confident landlord to redefine not only a building, but an entire precinct, simply by having the courage to fulfill their ambition to dramatically transform a property.”

Ms Hutchinson said the vision of the building owner was exactly what Perth needed at this time. The private syndicate, which is linked to Primewest, had worked with builder Cooktown Construction and architect Chaney Architects to “create a bold and imposing new feel and façade for the building” and then committed to redevelopment without an anchor tenant.

Cooktown Constructions also went the extra mile to follow exceedingly high standards in the property’s construction, supervision and detail in order to respect the heritage values of the building, Ms Hutchinson said.

Only a few months after the redevelopment began, prospective tenants came knocking, vindicating the decision to embark on such an ambitious project. Two separate furniture companies made approaches, and eventually Australian premier furniture supplier Living Edge secured the space. The tenant then partly tailored the building to its requirements, working closely with Cooktown Construction and a team from international design practice Hassell.

 “Perth’s CBD needs more of this,” Ms Hutchinson said, “and I think it takes stories like this to be told to give other landlords the confidence to spend the money required and back themselves in going ahead.”

“Not everywhere is going to be suitable for high end retail or even retail at all, but if landlords start to look creatively at their options and are prepared to back their judgement, then positive change is always possible.”

City revitalized

Another location where bold moves are sparking rejuvenation is the city of Newcastle two hours north of Sydney. The city’s CBD has been one of the most beleaguered of any in NSW, seeing several decades of decay as a result of the region’s changing fortunes and industry base.

But major change is taking place after Sydney-based Iris Capital bought a 1.66 hectare site in the city’s East End encompassing the Hunter Street Mall and embarked on a $750 million redevelopment early last year.

Described as a milestone in the city’s history, the official “rebirth” of Hunter Street Mall began in March 2018 when the first sod was turned, and, similar to the redevelopment in Perth’s CBD, is seeing several classic buildings being transformed in the process. One of these the historic David Jones building, regarded a jewel in the East End of Newcastle, which is to be renamed the Scotts building and restored with an awning in keeping with its original design.

Iris Capital chief executive Sam Arnaout describes the entire Hunter Street Mall redevelopment as the “showpiece” of the greater city’s revitalisation. “We have a real opportunity to create a legacy for Novocastrians for generations to come,” Mr Arnaout said.