Following up my recent post about the merits of polycentric cities here’s a closer look at one development located at Norwest in Sydney’s Baulkham Hills that highlights some of the points made in my earlier comments. The area has matured as a fully-fledged commercial centre and it is now hosting major new residential projects that not only set a new standard for the area, they compare more than favourably with any prime location. This style of development is shifting the idea of high-density living away from traditional CBD locations with Esplanade Norwest Lake as my benchmark.

Norwest Business Park dates back to the early 1990s with the first commercial users starting their buildings in 1993. Today the park is the headquarters for IBM GSA, Schneider, Woolworths, B Braun, ResMed, Capital Finance and over 400 companies and businesses with over 20,000 employees.

The popularity of the area was spurred on by major infrastructure investment – major road connections such as the M2 and M7 which will soon be joined by the Sydney Metro North West which is on schedule for a 2019 opening.

It’s a study in how transport links and key infrastructure investment, employment and housing can be successfully delivered in a formerly green-field location, that also beautifully demonstrates the best aspects of developer and local authority co-operation.

The big picture then – Esplanade, Norwest will deliver a 19- level 267-apartment project within two towers in a waterfront location with three levels boutique workspace and a ground restaurant/retail precinct. The project will have 1, 2, 3 & 4 bedroom apartments and facilities will include residents’-only podium gardens, outdoor cinema, pool, cabana and barbecues and inspired landscaping.

View 13 - Exterior - Pool Deck - FINAL - 2000[23]

Esplanade Norwest – Pool and Cabana

View 16 - Exterior - Landscape Podium - Final 2000[23]

Esplanade Norwest – Outdoor Cinema

Reflecting the maturity of the local housing market, in particular meeting the varied demand from ‘downsizers’ from the Castle Hill area, there will be larger 3 & 4 bedroom penthouses and terrace apartments. The mix of apartment types is an essential ingredient in this location, and will encourage a broad community of potential buyers across varied demographics.

This region is not new to housing. While the nearby Bella Vista is one of the north-west’s most sought after locations, Esplanade’s location is unique because it sits smack-bang at the heart of the area’s own CBD. The buildings will overlook the Norwest Lake and be a short walk to one of the stations on the new multi-billion-dollar Sydney Metro North-West.

Esplanade’s developer, Capital Corporation has been active at Norwest since its inception with the experience of some 40 projects giving them the ideal foundation to deliver this cleverly integrated development and innovative project.

Mixed-Use a Decisive Element

Mixed-use developments are increasingly attractive to buyers in particular when they deliver an experience that leverages both the advantages of the overall site, and good apartments or residential mix – the exact combination we have here. Mixing uses isn’t a new concept, but in this case, the interplay of apartments and workspaces, generous public spaces, teamed with restaurant and retail spaces marks this as a distinctive project.

View 08 - Exterior - Lake View - FINAL - 2000[32]

Innovative Residential, Retail and Commercial mix

To have a really good mixed-use development requires this combined effect. The alternative can be, for example, a residential complex sitting on top of an underperforming commercial zone. Having one element lacking, can act to drag down the appeal of the others.

The importance of the mix can’t be over emphasised. It’s also necessary to have a mixed-use project that has a critical size and where we have retail as part of the mix, enough of a wider population to make sure there’s local customers to make the area work as a going concern. This essential ‘DNA’ has been conceived at Esplanade in the way the needs of the already established, wider local commercial and residential customer base has been considered. The location will also benefit from the additional foot traffic and appeal of the metro station.

Still there are two other important elements we see at play here, in both the design of the apartment complex and the intention for the commercial space. And while the scale is much smaller than any town centre might ever be, it’s a worthwhile exercise to consider why I give a tick to couple of important items that I think will work here.

Critical Size

Starting with the apartments we have a critical size of project that will support quality concierge services, some of which will be shared with the commercial users. So what this allows is for the Esplanade Club to offer and maintain a pool, gym, spa, lounge area, BBQs, podium gardens and outdoor cinema, without being overly costly in terms of levies.

Levies are a consideration with first-time buyers and with down-size buyers, who may be on a reduced income, and will range from $800/$900 for 1-bedroom apartments to around $2300 for the largest apartments per quarter. And importantly without the risk that theses services might not be maintained.

Then considering the commercial space the plan is for areas and tenancies that are energetic modern and offering innovative work spaces in line with the demands of today’s work place dynamics. This will not be traditional space but much more flexible, less institutional and more enterprising.

There’s also a logical connection with the retail space that either by design or natural evolution has a strong interplay with the commercial space and of course the local residents, so that a true, village-like community is sustained.

A Neat Fit

Running on from ideas highlighted in the context of wider planning aspirations, Esplanade is a neat fit within the wider Norwest and Baulkham Hills district. This is important for the success of a mixed-use project in generating enough sales and rental revenue for the developer and sales for the retailers who will open here.

The location sits more or less mid-way between the major retail hubs of Castle Towers and Rouse Hill Town Centre, both of which will also have stations on the new Metro line. While already well served by a range of existing local shopping centres, schools, hospitals and a good range of recreation facilities from country clubs to national parks and open space, the area is ready for a more ‘urban’ style of project like this.

View 02 - Exterior - Aerial Montage - Final 2000[30]

A mature location with a critical mass of infrastructure

However I think it’s important to also acknowledge that Norwest has now been working hard to gain its authenticity for more than 25 years.  It has taken excellent planning and quality developments to create this outcome. Now more residents will be attracted here as the key ingredients of transport, employment and a good supply of different housing become available, including projects as stimulating as Esplanade.