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About $1.8 billion of property acquisitions have almost been completed for the second stage of Sydney's new metro rail line as work begins on demolishing the first towers in the central city to allow for construction of new train stations.
About 60 per cent of the money spent on acquisitions has been in the CBD where demolition of the first major high rise – the 17-storey building at 55 Hunter Street – will begin within the next few months.
It is one of five towers to face the wrecking ball at Martin Place for the new train station for th
e second stage of the $20 billion metro line from Chatswood in the city's north to Sydenham in the south, and onto Bankstown in the west.
One of the others is the 22-storey tower at 39 Martin Place, home to high-end jeweller Tiffany & Co and a law firm, which will be knocked down next year. A childcare centre in the tower will close its doors next week.
The government paid $332 million to commercial property company Dexus for the building in November, a significant premium to its book value of $223 million.
On the north side of the financial strip, the last office workers moved out of the high-rise tower at 12 Castlereagh Street last week to allow for it to be decommissioned.
It housed staff from Transport for NSW, many of whom have moved to a tower at World Square on George Street.
And while a heritage-listed building at 7 Elizabeth Street will be demolished, the property next door owned by Macquarie Group – 9 Elizabeth Street – will be spared the wrecking ball.
The building on the corner of Castlereagh and Park streets will be demolished for the new Pitt Street station. Photo: Wolter PeetersThe last residents of the art deco apartment building at 7 Elizabeth Street moved out in December after the government gazetted their apartments for compulsory acquisition.
In an unsolicited proposal lodged with the government in February last year, Macquarie outlined plans for two commercial towers – one of more than 40 storeys and the other at least 28 floors – above the new metro station at Martin Place.
Last month the investment bank's proposal moved to the third stage of the government's assessment process. It includes an "all-weather walkway" from Martin Place to Hunter Street.
The construction of the metro line will overlap that for the $2.1 billion light rail line from Circular Quay to the city's south-east, which has been a major disruption because it has forced the closure of busy thoroughfares such as George Street in the CBD.
Transport for NSW said about $1.8 billion worth of property across 70 buildings was needed for the stretch of new train line between Chatswood in the north and Sydenham in the city's south.
A spokesman said structural demolition of 12 Castlereagh Street, 5 Elizabeth Street and 7 Elizabeth Street near Martin Place would begin shortly after work begins on tearing down 55 Hunter Street in the middle of this year.
Contractors have also begun disconnecting utilities and removing internal fixtures and fittings – known as a "soft strip out" – from the first building to be torn down for the new Pitt Street station.
Structural demolition of 175 Castlereagh Street will begin by August to allow for the new station, which transport officials are relying on to help reduce the commuter crush at the nearby Town Hall station during peak hours.
A further 11 buildings nearby, such 302 Pitt Street and the home of the Windsor Hotel at 48 Park Street, will be demolished to allow for the construction of the new metro.
The City of Sydney said design and construction of the new train stations should protect the heritage values of our city and ensure sun shone on public spaces.
"It is essential that towers are setback above podiums in Hunter Street, Pitt Street and Martin Place and respect sun-access planes," a spokeswoman said. "The reference schemes developed by Transport for NSW appear to respect these requirements."
Elsewhere along the route, the first major demolitions of four buildings will ramp up in North Sydney next month for the new Victoria Cross station. Work has already begun on disconnecting utilities and removing awnings and internal fittings and fixtures.
Ten buildings are also due to be demolished for a new station at Crows Nest.
Another five buildings are still to be acquired along a 13-kilometre stretch of the Bankstown Line, which will be converted to carry metro trains as part of the project's $12 billion second stage.
This article first appeared on www.smh.com.au
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