Facebook Twitter: @NeosKosmos Instagram Greek Australian Canberra developer Nick Georgalis has just won the tender to develop the Kingston Arts Precinct, the last major commercial development property block on the Kingston Foreshore in Canberra. Georgalis, who reached number 17 on the BRW’s young rich list of Australia’s wealthiest people aged under 40 with an average wealth of $144 million, owns Geocon, a company that has become a major player within the Canberra property market. “Geocon is thrilled and humbled to be awarded the privilege of breathing new life into this iconic location. The Kingston Arts Precinct is a really special project for us because it is such a significant site in Canberra and it gives us another opportunity to contribute to our mantra of ‘Building Canberra’,” says managing director Nick Georgalis in an interview with Neos Kosmos. “Geocon has a strong affiliation with the arts through sponsoring the local theatre and we’ve signed up The Aston Shuffle to create music and curate soundtracks for our Midnight development in Braddon. I live nearby to the site and I know well the potential and how fantastic it will be. Once the precinct is completed it will rival the Museum of Old and New Art in Hobart,” he adds.In the Land Development Agency’s announcement, Geocon, which partnered with Oculus and Fender Katsalidis Architects, another Greek Australian-owned company that has designed the renowned MONA in Tasmania and the New Acton precinct in Canberra, won the tender last month by outbidding rival company Doma, but no further information was released. “Greeks have a long history of doing great things in architecture and construction. Just look at the Parthenon! Irrespective of that though, at Geocon we just want to work with the best in the world no matter what their heritage and background,” says the son of Greek migrants who arrived in Australia from Kalambaka (Thessaly) in the ’70s. Currently, the Kingston site is largely open space with car parking, but it also includes heritage buildings such as the former Kingston Powerhouse (now the Canberra Glassworks), the Fitters Workshop and the former Transport Depot (now the Old Bus Depot Markets), which are to be protected.“We are just in the final stages of agreeing with the ACT government on precisely what the precinct will include and that will determine when the construction might start. However, I can say that the heritage buildings will be retained and celebrated and the new spaces for the arts will be state-of-the-art in both functionality and design,” says the 40-year-old businessman, who was the first Greek Australian to make the BRW under-40 list, followed by Tim Demetriou (27), Kostas Drakopoulos (42) and Kayla Itsines (51). Geocon and the ACT government will be in consultation with the arts community in order to determine the final design, and it could take up to six months to finalise contract negotiations. Agency chief executive David Dawes said the partnership has created an exciting concept for the precinct that will stand the test of time and which, according to the area’s masterplan, will include an apartment building with about 150 units, a multi-storey car park, retail and commercial developments and office space. The government recently changed the Territory Plan to also allow a hotel and childcare centre. “It also includes workshops, gallery spaces and offices for arts groups, visiting artist accommodation, landscaped plazas for outdoor entertainment and events, and generous parking provisions,” said Dawes. According to local press, the tender documents stipulated between 500 and 800 publicly available carparks, around 7,000 square metres of arts facilities, a 4,000 square metre outdoor arts-event space, and at least 20,000 square metres of non-residential facilities. The plan will also relocate Canberra Contemporary Art Space, Craft ACT, Photo Access, Art Sound FM, M16 and parts of the Canberra Potters’ Society to the site, where they will join the Canberra Glassworks and Megalo print studio.Managing director Nick Georgalis said it would be the “jewel in the crown” of the Kingston Foreshore and would create “a cultural space of international renown and a beacon for artistic endeavour across the world”, as MONA has done for Hobart.Geocon is also building the 27-storey Wayfarer, which is considered to be Canberra’s tallest apartment tower with 331 apartments and has also partnered with Fender Katsalidis Architects and Oculus to redevelop the site of the old NRMA office into an apartment building, hotel, retail and restaurant space which it has dubbed ‘Midnight’. It plans 350 apartments and a 140-room apartment hotel on the site. The company also owns the Abode Group of Hotels, and last month announced plans to build a new hotel in the Kingston shopping centre, while a new hotel will be constructed in Murrumbateman.“Canberra is an emerging market in residential apartments compared to other mature markets in cities like Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne. And we run counter-cyclical to them. So as they come off, Canberra starts to become more attractive for investors, and that is what we are seeing now,” says the developer. Geocon is building the 20 and 22-storey Infinity Apartment Towers in Gungahlin, which is anticipated to be the tallest structure in Canberra after the Black Mountain Tower, and has built 257 apartments in the Observatory Living development at Wright in Molonglo and 360 apartments at Southport in Tuggeranong.“With continued low interest rates, the affordability of units compared to house and land packages for first home buyers, the increasing number of downsizers who want a carefree home; it all adds up to a boom in residential apartments which is destined to continue. “For the past three years, our sales have increased 50 per cent year-over-year. We’ll sell 700 apartments this year, and by the end of the year, we will have about 1,500 apartments under construction,” concludes the determined entrepreneur, who seems to be on a real mission to make Canberra truly great.
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