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November 10, 2017

Canberra-based Doma Group will continue its building spree in Newcastle after submitting a development application for an eight-storey apartment block beside the former rail corridor. The 48-unit tower at 1 Merewether Street, opposite Newcastle Regional Museum, is expected to hit the market in March next year. The firm is on a winning streak in Newcastle after selling 154 units off the plan in five days at its waterfront Lume development last month for a total of about $150 million.

The company paid Hunter Development Corporation an estimated $11 million last year for the Lume site at Honeysuckle and has submitted a $58 million development application for the project. Doma is also behind Edition, a 72-unit block plus offices on Honeysuckle Drive; the 37-unit Bishopsgate project under construction at Wickham; and the proposed $45 million, 140-room Little National Hotel with 52 units, also on Honeysuckle Drive.

“We’ve worked very closely with Colliers International to design a range of apartment and townhouse plans that appealed to a wide range of buyers and the market feedback has been really positive,” Doma Group’s general manager of development, Gavin Edgar, told the Newcastle Herald. Mr Edgar would not comment on whether Doma had submitted expressions of interest to Revitalising Newcastle about redeveloping 35 Honeysuckle Drive or the Store building in Hunter Street west. The Doma unit tower, to be known as The Crossing, will be the first significant development beside the old rail line east of where light rail veers off the corridor. The existing building on the site houses a liquor shop but will be demolished in February.

Doma, which is owned by the Domazet family, started about 40 years ago after chairman Ivan Domazet migrated from Croatia. It has built and operates hotels in Canberra and plans to open another in its new Little National chain in Sydney. It also has a portfolio of residential developments in Canberra, is about to start work on the new ACT Government offices and has developed a host of Commonwealth buildings, including the National Archives Preservation Facility. It had planned a Little National Hotel in Brisbane after buying a South Bank site from Queensland Rail in 2015, but the council reclaimed the land for a light-rail station.

Mr Edgar first came to Newcastle in 2013 to tender for a new Tax Office building. The Tax Office decided to stay in King Street, but Doma went ahead with the Edition building anyway. “I looked around the city and realised there were a lot of other good things that were going and I felt that there was opportunity there,” Mr Edgar said. “From there we just believed in the city and what it was doing and its fundamentals. It’s got a lot of investment and public infrastructure happening there and it’s a bloody nice place.”

Doma bought 1 Merewether Street from millionaire cosmetic surgeon, hotelier and property developer Jerry Schwartz, who is planning an apartment block for students nearby on Wharf Road. Mr Schwartz, who owns the Crowne Plaza hotel, paid $9.5 million in 2011 for an area of land bounded by Wharf Road, Merewether Street, Argyle Street and the rail corridor. He had proposed an ambitious development, including a conference centre, hotel and possibly a brewery, on the aggregated site. Those plans appear to have faded, although he still owns most of the site, including the large antiques centre on the rail corridor in Centenary Road.

Published on 10/11/17 in the Newcastle Herald.

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