Recently announced plans to breathe new life into unused public spaces have added to a sense of excitement among city agents, who’ve been grappling with a mass exodus during COVID.
The pandemic turned many of the country’s CBDs into virtual ghost towns as people moved to working from home or left entirely, with outer suburbs and regional areas growing in popularity.
But in Sydney at least it seems the trend is starting to reverse, with a resurgence of activity.
Following the easing of restrictions in New South Wales, people are returning to the city not only for work, recreation and entertainment, but to live.
Urban renewal projects earmarked for Sydney’s CBD will only strengthen this rejuvenation of the city post COVID, experts say.
In addition to major commercial, hotel and residential developments, there are plans for the significant multi-billion-dollar Tech Central precinct, dubbed Australia’s ‘Silicon Valley’, as well as vibrant new CBD spaces by breathing new life into laneways and creating public domains.
Positioned next to Sydney’s Central Station, the 24-hectare government-backed Tech Central will provide up to 250,000 square metres of space for technology companies and include the $1 billion Atlassian Tower as its flagship project.
The multi-billion-dollar Central Square precinct will revitalise a tired pocket of the CBD. Picture: City of Sydney
Belmore Park, near Central Station, is set for a $10 million upgrade as part of the City South public domain, while two other civic spaces, Chinatown and Town Hall, will also be redeveloped to include public and green space.
All three have recently been approved by the City of Sydney.
Meanwhile, a new laneways revitalisation plan to transform and activate underused spaces in the CBD has also been given priority by council.
These projects are set to make Sydney’s CBD a more attractive place to live and put more pressure on an already competitive residential property market.
An artist’s impression of a revitalised section of Pitt Street. Picture: City of Sydney
With the migration out of cities over the past 18 months, the Sydney CBD missed out on the residential boom occurring in the wider market, but it’s set to play catch up.
The median unit price in Sydney’s CBD has fallen by 2.7% over the past 12 months to hit $1.05 million, according to PropTrack figures, but it’s expected that growth will return as people migrate back in.
Ray White agent Michael Lowdon, who sells apartments in Sydney’s CBD, said when lockdown restrictions eased in NSW there was a rapid turnaround in the CBD’s residential property market.
Mr Lowdon has seen a sharp rise in activity that’s expected to continue into next year.
“It’s off to a flying start,” he said. “We’re listing and selling apartments, and there is competition for those apartments.
“Sellers aren’t coming to market in the numbers required so there is still a lot of pressure on stock levels and prices.
“I think there will be growth in the city for the next couple of quarters.”
Mr Lowdon recently sold 1702 The Hyde at 157 Liverpool Street – a 120sqm two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment with one car space – off market in just 48 hours for $4.1 million.
An apartment in The Hyde that just sold for $4.1 million. Picture: Michael Lowdon
He has another two-bedroom apartment in the same building coming to market in the mid $4 million range.
A listing in what’s known as the ‘Piano Building’, the Macquarie Apartments at 155 Macquarie Street,with a price guide from $2.5 to $2.75 million, attracted 10 enquiries within just 24 hours of going on the market.
The ‘tide’ went out quite quickly in Sydney’s CBD following the introduction of COVID restrictions and social distancing, but it’s now coming back in, CEO of Propertybuyers.com.au Rich Harvey said.
After working from home for so long, many people want to come back into the office because they miss the collaboration and socialisation that comes with it, while others are being called back in, he said.
“The tide will swing back,” Mr Harvey said.
“I don’t think it will come in a flood. We won’t have hundreds of people migrating back to the city as quickly as we saw them move out during COVID, but they will come back over time.”
Sydney’s CBD has struggled through Covid-19 but optimism has returned. Picture: Getty
The rejuvenation projects planned for Sydney’s CBD will have a positive impact on the residential property market, drawing even more people into the city and surrounds, Mr Harvey said.
“It makes the city a more attractive place to play, to work and to live.
“The Tech Central precinct in particular will be amazing – it’s such a cool project and will be fantastic for Sydney.
“Just the other day we bought a property in Redfern for some buyers – one of them works in a tech company and he loves the convenience of being close to the city, including being able to walk to work.
“There are also older folks I know who have moved from the leafy ‘burbs and want to be in the city, close to the vibe and entertainment and eating precincts.
“I think that trend was reversed during COVID, but it will start to come back again.”
The full extent of the migration back into the CBD won’t be seen for at least six months, according to PropTrack Economist Angus Moore.
“The premium people put on being close to the city declined during COVID, and instead people put a premium on lifestyle factors such as being near the beach, having an extra bedroom or a big backyard, but some of it will shift back,” he said.
“The CBD and areas close to the CBD such as Glebe and Redfern that we’ve seen migration out of will become attractive again in 2022.”