A SWAG of city developments collectively valued at more than $350 million are under way or set to start, with close to half the sum earmarked for Hunter Street.
A summary of major projects by Newcastle City Council shows 17 developments worth a total $358 million, with seven projects in the CBD's main trade thoroughfare valued at $121 million.
They include the new law courts complex ($90 million), the McCloy Group's Lucky Country development ($6 million) and the Star Hotel refurbishment ($5.5 million).
The summary said the CBD was undergoing a "significant period" of change following the release of the state government's Newcastle Urban Renewal Strategy, adding that the council's Hunter Street revitalisation strategy is also underpinning change.
"Positive results have begun to filter through the property development industry with an increasing number of significant proposals worth more than $2 million each," it said, referring to projects that have been announced, approved or completed in the past three years.
The $121 million earmarked for Hunter Street may flag a reversal of fortune for sections of the once-vibrant strip, but the fate of the mall depends on the government's urban renewal plans, in turn contingent on the privatisation of the Port of Newcastle.
In August 2007, the GPT Group unveiled its $500 million vision to redevelop the precinct but almost exactly three years later put its plans on ice, blaming the then-Labor government's indecision over the rail line.
The about-face prompted David Jones to exit in January 2011, but the mood shifted in April that year when the town heard Nathan Tinkler-backed development company Buildev was negotiating to buy GPT's vast city landholding to pursue its own mixed-use plans.
By June that deal had collapsed, and 12 months later GPT sold a 66.6 per cent stake of the mall to state government developer Landcom (now known as UrbanGrowth NSW) for $20 million.
Last month UrbanGrowth NSW said it would reveal its proposed model for the mall "in the next few months".
The council's release of the $358 million project list follows calls this week by lord mayor Jeff McCloy for more high-density development in the city.
Addressing an urban renewal summit with business leaders and developers, Cr McCloy was critical of height restrictions to protect views to Christ Church Cathedral.
He said the city's widespread mining subsidence - which required costly grouting before a project could literally get off the ground - meant developers had to build higher to get a decent return on their investment.
Ed Crawford, chairman of the Property Council of Australia's Hunter Board, said administration constraints ranging from view corridors to height limits to boundary setbacks made it tough for developers to get a green light.
He said the cost of grouting to counter mine subsidence alone could mean projects were not feasible, and when a project was "marginal", extra floors were required "just to make it work at all, financially".
"That's why the term 'greedy developer' grates - I know too many that have gone broke trying to get things done in this city and elsewhere," he said.
"We say relax the constraints, let the market take the risk on development applications and approvals and encourage creative, vibrant, financially viable development."
1. Law Courts
$94 million development approved by the Joint Regional Planning Panel despite parking concerns.
Construction under way.
2. Hunter Street mall redevelopment
GPT/UrbanGrowth NSW development will be predominantly residential, with a small amount of niche retail and commercial.
Project could be used as a pilot for citywide grouting scheme to tackle mine subsidence.
Heritage facades to be incorporated into design.
3. University of Newcastle Campus
$30 million in federal funding allocated to university’s $95 million city campus project.
Newcastle City Council demolished buildings to make way for the campus.
4. Former post office
Progress halted by native title claim.
Repair bill estimated between $10-$15 million.
Commercial interests and community groups vying for site.
5. Empire Hotel
Proposal for a communications centre being revisited by State Government.
Seven expressions of interest submitted from the private sector to supply up to 10,000 square metres of office space.
6. Former Newcastle Region Museum
$9 million development application approved for serviced apartments. Site includes S&W Miller building.
Includes adaptive reuse of the former Castlemaine & Wood Bros Brewery building for 47 units and associated car parking.
7. The Store
Newcastle Urban Renewal Strategy shows plans for a redevelopment up to 90 metres high.
8. Star Hotel
$5.5 million development application lodged for 31 units and three commercial tenancies.
9. Lawler Partners Chartered Accountants
$5 million commercial office development, which will include the former surf shop owned by Newcastle icon Mark Richards.
Construction under way by Core Project Group.
10. Lucky Country Hotel
$6 million, 50-room hotel redevelopment.
Work under way.