Impact of COVID-19 on Port Stephens' commercial property market

FOR SALE: The Maria's Farm site off Cabbage Tree Road at Tomago. Picture: Supplied
FOR SALE: The Maria's Farm site off Cabbage Tree Road at Tomago. Picture: Supplied

While the coronavirus crisis has taken a heavy toll on tourism, hospitality and retailers over the past three months, it remains unclear what, if any, long-term affects the pandemic will have on the commercial property market in Port Stephens.

Most economists agree that commercial property sales nationally have been negatively impacted by COVID-19 to some degree and that investment would pick up post-recovery, but the situation in Port Stephens may not be so clear cut.

In July last year Port Stephens councillors made the controversial decision to ignore planning staff recommendations and increase the building height limits in the Nelson Bay CBD.

Since that time there has been very little, if any, movement.

In fact, the eight-story development project on the corner of Donald and Yacaaba streets approved by the councillors at that meeting and referred by selling agent Knight Frank as 'Nelson Bay's jewel in the crown', is now being offered for sale as "a unique development opportunity in a most desirable lifestyle destination".

An artist's impression of the Manta Ray building, located on the corner of Donald and Yacaaba streets in Nelson Bay. The development was approved at the July 9 2019 council meeting. Photo: ADG Architects

An artist's impression of the Manta Ray building, located on the corner of Donald and Yacaaba streets in Nelson Bay. The development was approved at the July 9 2019 council meeting. Photo: ADG Architects

Within the Nelson Bay CBD there are at least three retail shops available for sale or lease at two of the Bay's more prominent commercial centres - the Nelson Bay Cinema Centre and Nelson Towers.

According to O'Meara Property's Natasha Grima, who has 15 years' experience in commercial sales and has listed stores in both centres, there was still plenty of interest in commercial land in Nelson Bay.

"The pandemic has caused some buyers to pause while things settle down, but we are still getting inquiries from investors looking for existing property or land. And any good sized property with a long lease is going fast," Ms Grima said.

Recently released data shows there is a growing number of commercial properties, either existing or vacant, on the open market spread across the Port Stephens LGA ranging in location, size and cost.

A prime piece of real estate to go up for sale in recent days is the former Colonial Ridge Resort site in Fleet Street, Salamander Bay, alongside an adjoining property.

This time last year Salamander Bay Projects had two development applications before Port Stephens Council for No 4 Fleet Street - the first was for 30 units estimated at $11.5 million, and a second for 69 units at $16.1 million.

The DAs have since been withdrawn.

A spokesperson for agents Commercial Collective said that the two adjoining properties - at 4 and 8 Fleet Street of 26,300 sqm and 33,302 sqm respectively - presented stunning views from Wanda Beach, and had permissible uses as a holiday park consisting of single-storey, moveable dwellings and a seniors housing approval.

At Tomago, Colliers International is selling the 83.2-hectare Maria's Farm Veggies property, located on Cabbage Tree Road.

According to Colliers, the property is an extremely rare opportunity for food and agribusiness industry participants and investors to secure world-class greenhouse technology in a partially complete glasshouse facility.

"The opportunity presents an ideal platform for potential buyers to establish themselves as a major player in high-tech, hydroponic vegetable production. The original plan for the glasshouse was for tomato and cucumber production to service the domestic market, however, there is the flexibility for this to be changed depending on the demand," Colliers said.

"Upon completion, the glasshouse forecasts production of nearly 14,000 tonnes of premium vegetables per annum with a near 'seasonless' production profile."


The piece of land at 4287 Nelson Bay Road, Anna Bay listed for sale with Colliers International. Picture: colliers.com.au

The piece of land at 4287 Nelson Bay Road, Anna Bay listed for sale with Colliers International. Picture: colliers.com.au

Also listed for sale with Colliers is a 21-hectare site located at the northern corner of Nelson Bay Road and Port Stephens Drive at Anna Bay, described as "a gateway site positioned at the entrance to the Port Stephens".

"The site experiences excellent exposure to passing traffic from its prominent location surrounded by a combination of outdoor recreation facilities (David Grahams golf complex), places of public worship and accommodation facilities, together with Over 55s complexes including Anna Bay Village, the Boardwalk and Latitude One."

Heatherbrae is considered to be a major industrial hub in the west of Port Stephens with the Camfield Drive subdivision, known as Kinross Estate, now in its third stage.

With the initial two stages completely sold out, selling agents Knight Frank say there are plenty of benefits associated with stage three, which comprises six level lots located within the subdivision.

"The estate offers excellent connectivity to the Pacific Highway and is within close proximity to the M1, New England Highway and Hunter Expressway. Camfield Drive is now home to a wide range of users including Australian Plastic Profiles, Andersons Scaffolding, Reece Plumbing, Solo and Jayco Caravans."

Kinross Estate, Lot 1101-1106, Camfield Drive, Heatherbrae. Picture: realcommercial.com.au

Kinross Estate, Lot 1101-1106, Camfield Drive, Heatherbrae. Picture: realcommercial.com.au

The lots range in size from 7,444 sqm to 7,961 sqm or can be combined to create 1.9 hectares of vacant industrial land.

More industrial land [3.45 hectare site] is available on the northern side of School Drive, in the Tomago industrial precinct, listed by Knight Frank for $2.2 million.

"The site benefits from having easy access to the Pacific Highway, New England Highway, Newcastle Port facilities and Newcastle Airport," a spokesperson said.

"The property comprises of three main buildings used for workshop space, storage and administration. These buildings are located on the southern portion of the site, with the northern portion comprising heavily timbered undeveloped land. Surplus land on site provides opportunity for further development or subdivision."

A neighbouring property in School Drive, once again listed by Knight Frank, features a facility constructed in 2014 and boasting two large industrial warehouses with internal offices and mezzanine areas.

Each warehouse includes overhead cranes, one with loading dock, and large on-site car parking site.

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