LAKE Macquarie is being transformed at a rate not seen for generations, with a construction frenzy spilling over from Newcastle and pushing Warners Bay and Charlestown skywards.
The Lake Macquarie council area, which includes a swath of greater Newcastle suburbs and townships such as Morisset, Cooranbong and Swansea, had about 2,700 development applications worth $607 million approved in the last financial year.
That is 550 more than the previous year, and an increase of 23.5 per cent.
About $250 million worth of construction is underway and, while not on the scale of Newcastle’s $900 million transformation, the Lake figure is mainly private investment unswollen by major public works like the Newcastle light rail.
There is also more than $300 million worth of development in the pipeline. Among the projects attracting buyers’ interest are the $80 million Water’s Edge apartments proposed for the Esplanade at Warners Bay.
If approved, Water’s Edge will take the site of a former BP service station and feature 112 one, two and three-bedroom apartments across two buildings.
It will sit opposite the near-complete Shearwater building, also comprising 112 apartments, two basements, eight specialty shops and an Aldi supermarket.
In Charlestown the proposed Highpoint apartments – held up at the council but expected to be about 15 storeys – are being advertised from $385,000 to $750,000.
Chris Chapman, the director of Colliers Newcastle, said a thriving Lake is a side-effect of Newcastle’s construction boom.
“Lake Macquarie’s fortunes are a mirror to Newcastle’s. It has really solid fundamentals; government expenditure, mining is doing OK and construction is off the charts in the Newcastle CBD,” Mr Chapman said.
“Charlestown now has its own CBD and you’re seeing more clustered around the lake. Warners Bay is certainly benefiting from the growth.”
Lake Macquarie mayor Kay Fraser praised her council’s recent track record of assessing more development applications than any other NSW council outside of Sydney, with a median determination time of 38 days and 54 days for major developments.
“Diversity of choice in residential options is one of the city’s strengths, with modern apartment-style living increasing around the town centres and plenty of well-located greenfield space still available for those who prefer to build or buy a traditional home on a suburban block,” Cr Fraser said.
“Lake Macquarie provides an enviable lifestyle for people of all ages and affordable housing options, with a median home price of about $430,000.”
Health, aged care part of Lake’s boom
NOT everything new in Lake Macquarie comes in a multi-storey building.
The council approved 204 medium-density housing applications in the decade to 2016.
In Charlestown, the median price for a house in the past year has been $571,000, a jump of 8.3 per cent.
Median house prices in Warners Bay are up 5.4 per cent to $590,000, while units fell four per cent to $450,000.
Last year generated 741 subdivision lots, the council says, part of an upward trend.
The Lake has the “capacity for much more greenfield development”, with 11,000 new greenfield dwellings projected and 2,000 seniors housing units.
A $22 million residential care facility was approved for Cardiff in May, and a $22 million seniors housing development at Mount Hutton is already built.
The growth in residential care mirrors the expansions of Lake Macquarie Private and Warners Bay Private hospitals, and Gateshead and Charlestown as a health precinct.
House and unit sales in Belmont are steady at $495,000 and $408,000 respectively, but the neighbouring southern coastal lake suburbs of Nords Wharf and Catherine Hill Bay have emerged as powerhouses.
Catherine Hill Bay’s 46.9 per cent median increase in a year, turbo-charged by the 550-lot Beaches development, puts it top of the Lake and fourth in NSW.
Planning, land releases and construction continue at the 2,000-home Cameron Grove Estate in Cameron Park, the 1,500-home Northlakes Estate, and the 2,500-home Watagan Park in North Cooranbong.
‘It’s not the village I know’
AT lunchtime on a weekday in Warners Bay the red stools of King Street Depot, Daniyella Spudic’s weatherboard cafe a street back from Lake Macquarie, seat hi-vis-wearing builders from the construction site next door.
The cafe is overlooked by the growing 112-apartment Shearwater building and, pending Lake Macquarie council approval, will soon occupy a valley walled on the lake side by the $80 million Water’s Edge building.
“They just hang out the front,” Ms Spudic said, jokingly.
“They like meat pies and energy drinks, so I think it’s been more of a win for the servo. We did put on a double bacon and egg roll, which I hate. We already had a big tradie base.”
Ms Spudic and her late partner Johan Astrup leased the cafe seven years ago expecting it would be demolished one day as the land around it was developed.
She will close in December with a party for regular customers and go travelling abroad, knowing the Lake is changing under the weight of $600 million worth of development in a year.
“In my opinion the buildings are way too big for this area. It’s not the little lakeside village I know.”
Depending who you ask, last year’s 23 per cent jump in development approvals will either add to the Lake’s village appeal, kill it, or something in between.
As the mixed-use Water’s Edge by Warners Bay developer YPI Yahav Property Investments is assessed by the council, the project’s Canberra-based builder, Bloc, says it will employ about 1,200 new workers.
Mark Kentwell of PRDnationwide Newcastle and Lake Macquarie, who is marketing the 112-apartment building, has said he expects the project will become the “jewel in the crown” of Warners Bay.
Another major building before the council, GWH Build’s Highpoint Charlestown, promises views of the lake from the heart of the area’s commercial centre.
“With only one recent apartment building being developed in Charlestown we see an opportunity to develop and build a boutique high-rise development,” a GWH Build spokesman told the Newcastle Herald.
Chris Chapman of Colliers Newcastle, which will market Highpoint, said he expected Charlestown to continue to grow and for apartments in Warners Bay to soon start selling for $1 million.
While median sales have spiked in the western Lake suburbs of Booragul, Carey Bay and Bolton Point, Mr Chapman said the markets in Toronto and Swansea are “not quite as advanced as Warners Bay”.
“But Swansea could be a dark horse,” he said.
“Around the Lake generally, we’re not seeing anything in our modelling that indicates any storm clouds on the horizon.”