A Mirvac-led consortium has won the right to buy Australian Technology Park in Sydney for $263 million, with the Commonwealth Bank confirming it will be a new anchor tenant in the revitalised space.
Mirvac said in an ASX filing that the consortium would develop around 93,000 square metres of office space at the site for the exclusive use of the Commonwealth Bank, and 3000 square metres of amenities, including a “community space”.
Its proposal beat that of rival Walker Corporation and Atlassian, whose plans for Technology Park were to turn the space into an innovation hub.
The Mirvac consortium is also keen to attract start-ups into the space, and has joined fellow consortia member Centuria Property Funds and anchor tenant CBA to establish a Tech Incubation Fund.
“The purpose of the fund is to enable appropriately qualified technology-focused companies and start-up businesses to occupy space within the Locomotive Workshop [space] on subsidised rents,” Mirvac said in financial filings.
The value of the fund was not disclosed.
Coinciding with Mirvac’s win, CBA revealed it would not renew leases on existing office space in Sydney’s west – Parramatta, Sydney Olympic Park and Lidcombe – and instead consolidate some 10,000 staff at Australian Technology Park.
It had moved staff into many of these spaces in Western Sydney between mid-2007 and 2010.
At Technology Park, it will have use of two “state-of-the-art” buildings for 15 years, from 2020 when the site revitalisation is expected to be completed.
“Securing this innovative office campus reflects our continued commitment to investing in leading workplaces for our people and ensuring we have world-class solutions to support future workplace needs,” CFO David Craig said.
“This is a major milestone for the Commonwealth Bank, not only will our new campus feature the very latest in innovative workplace design and technology, it will also house 10,000 of our people – the largest number of employees we’ve ever been able to accommodate in a single site.”
CBA released a number of artist’s impressions that provide a glimpse of what life at the new Australian Technology Park might look like.
As the sale process drew closer to conclusion, Atlassian – which would have been the anchor tenant in Mirvac rival Walker’s bid – had stepped up its lobbying efforts on Australian Technology Park.
In particular, it commissioned PwC to produce an analysis that purported to show up to $390 million in economic benefits could be derived over ten years by keeping Technology Park as an “innovation district” – rather than converting it to a new banking campus.
Atlassian co-founder Scott Farquhar described the decision to hand the site to Mirvac and CBA as a "tragic missed opportunity for Australia".
With Australian Technology Park’s role as an innovation district now limited to one building, attention is likely to turn to a proposal by UrbanGrowth NSW – the sellers of Technology Park – to build an innovation hub instead on waterfront property in Sydney’s inner west.
Information Age reported last month on the proposal to convert the former White Bay Power Station into a hub for technology start-ups and “knowledge-intensive industries”.
That proposal has the support of the Australian Computer Society.
Australian Technology Park was created in 1991 as a way to regenerate what was a largely vacant space. It is presently home to about 100 technology focused firms.
CBA's decision not to renew leases in key Western Sydney districts has also damaged hopes that the area might become an innovation incubator in future, according to business groups.
“There is no clear vision for technology in Sydney’s west and we had hoped the Bank would be part of developing and growing a new knowledge jobs hub," Sydney Business Chamber's Western Sydney director David Borger said.
“Right now, the heartland of Western Sydney’s smart jobs starts in the Westmead Precinct, with a full time workforce of over 12,000 and 1,000 scientists working in Hawkesbury Road.
“25,000 workers are expected by 2036, if the Bays precinct can have a vision for tech jobs then so should Westmead to Sydney Olympic Park."
Borger called for a summit on smart jobs in Western Sydney.