The NSW government’s Lighthouse Precinct scheme is unfolding to plan with a swathe of concepts coming to life. The Westmead Health and Innovation Precinct – one of 5 Lighthouse Precincts across the state so far – is the latest to experience a taste of what’s to come with news that quality tenants including the CSIRO will move into one of its most significant new commercial developments, the $350 million Innovation Quarter (iQ) due for completion next year.

Lighthouse Precincts are part of the Global NSW Government Plan. Of the 50 areas across the state selected for special attention as innovation precincts, the 5 Lighthouse Precincts are on the highest rung, These are the regions selected to host globally significant firms, education and research facilities, in turn creating jobs, building desirable neighbourhoods, drawing investment, and ultimately delivering significant economic benefit to NSW.

The idea is that clustering leading businesses and institutions in precincts ignites greater competition and innovation, thereby creating higher-paying jobs while increasing exports and attracting investment. Westmead’s Health Precinct for instance is forecast to eventually create more than 50,000 jobs and pump around $2.8 billion into the economy. Other Lighthouse Precincts announced so far are the Sydney Innovation and Technology Precinct located between Central Station and Eveleigh; the Western Sydney Aerotropolis, and the Special Activation Precincts in the regional districts of Parkes and Wagga Wagga.

Benchmark developments

As with each designated Lighthouse Precinct region, Westmead is benefiting from significant private and public sector investment. Around $3 billion has been committed by government, universities and the private sector to boost the region already billed as one of Australia’s largest health and bio-medical research centres. Best known for being the home of Westmead Hospital and The Children’s Hospital at Westmead among others, it also has two university campuses and the largest research-intensive pathology service in NSW. The multi-billion-dollar pool of funds will help expand infrastructure and boost the region’s heath, medical, research and education services to a world class level.

The Innovation Quarter (iQ) is the first jewel in the Westmead Redevelopment crown. A joint development between Charter Hall and Western Sydney University, the A-grade 43,000 sqm project under construction at 158-164 Hawkesbury Road, Westmead will house mixed-use research, health, commercial and retail space across three towers.

It is already well on target when it comes to attracting top tier tenants. Currently being leased by commercial property giant JLL together with Resonate Partners, the Innovation Quarter has in recent weeks attracted not only the CSIRO but also three of Western Sydney University’s world-leading research institutes – the MARCS Institute for Brain, Behaviour and Development; the NICM Health Research Institute; and Translational Health Research Institute (THRI). Similar prestigious commercial businesses and research organisations are expected to follow suit as the Innovation Quarter takes shape over the coming year.

The Innovation Quarter’s facilities and features, being geared towards medical research, are among the country’s most advanced, said Resonate Partners co-founder and director Jonathan Betts. “It goes way beyond any type of office building,” Mr Betts said. “The iQ is a true benchmark development, the first for the Westmead Precinct – as there are up to three or four more of these slated for this region.”

JLL’s Western Sydney Senior Leasing Director Stephen Panagiotopoulos said the level of investment in Westmead was “unprecedented” as well as “relatively immune to COVID-19”.

“A combination of new property development and infrastructure ensures strong growth and a supported community,” Mr Panagiotopoulos said.

Global impact

Like Westmead the tech precinct near Sydney’s CBD is taking shape fast. In June, Australia’s largest tech company Atlassian revealed plans for a spectacular 40-level $1 billion-plus tower in the Central Station area which will anchor the tech precinct. The 180 metre tower will be the tallest hybrid timber building in the world and serve as Atlassian’s new headquarters. In August the Sydney tech precinct was granted approval for major increases in building heights, and last week the City of Sydney released a vision for a “high-tech, green and people-friendly” area within the tech hub which will border the southern end of the Sydney CBD and stretch to Eveleigh.

With Atlassian aiding the NSW government taskforce in designing the new technology and innovation precinct, the raft of plans have become so far-reaching the completed area is tipped to rival the likes of Silicon Valley while creating more than 25,000 jobs by 2025.

What’s more, earlier this year multinational technology firm NEC joined forces with the NSW government to work on the co-creation of the Digital Safer and Smarter City Environment.

A global leader in the provision of IT services and products, NEC will contribute its expertise in artificial intelligence, internet of things and biometrics technologies with the aim of promoting safer city environments right across all Lighthouse Precincts.

Such enormous investment and multi-faceted development taking place throughout Lighthouse Precincts presents investors and commercial real estate stakeholders with a wealth of new opportunity, according to property observers. “Lighthouse Precincts have the potential to have global pivotal impacts as well as play a key role in delivering a strong economic influence across NSW,” Mr Panagiotopoulos said.