11 Sep

Inspired by Lend Lease’s global ambitions

By Jackie Sadek

One of the highlights of my trip to Sydney last year (see blogs 27 November 2014 and 19 June 2015) was my personalised tour of Barangaroo (I had to practice how to say it for simply ages), the monster new development on a former container yard transformed into a “beautiful city garden” by Dan Labbad and his able lieutenants at Lend Lease.

Dan himself greeted me on arriving on my first day (somewhat jetlagged and overwhelmed) at the spectacular Lend Lease Sydney office, built into the rock, just across the road from the development, already towering alongside the most beautiful harbour in the world. At that time Dan was just preparing to return to the UK, and move his family back into their London home, clearly somewhat torn by allegiances to both sides of the globe. It was great to see him  And great to go on the tour of the building site with Rob Metcalf and the energetic Lend Lease team.

In partnership with the New South Wales government, the guys have masterminded a project of eye-watering proportions with more than half a million square metres of residential, commercial, retail and leisure space; the residential in a mix of high-rise and low-rise arranged over eight buildings providing between 750 and 900 apartments in “one of the world’s leading sustainable developments”.  It is a knock-out.

So, roll on eight or nine months, and it was truly fabulous to see Rob Metcalf and the lettings team again, with leading light Tom MacKellar, a Lend Lease man, through and through (destined for bigger things I understand) and the lovely Tim O’Connor of JLL (joint with Colliers and DTZ/Cushman & Wakefield as agents on Barangaroo) over in London during one of our wettest weeks (was there any other sort?) this summer, as Digby Flower of C&W, shepherded us all (under C&W umbrellas) from his City office into a traders’ bar around the corner for a quick snifter.

The Lend Lease team were spending a whirlwind two weeks (their third!) meeting with leading agents and major corporate prospects in San Francisco, New York City, London, Hong Kong and Singapore, taking a total of eight flights in 10 days! These guys do not mess about in their roaming of the globe to find the right tenants to co-locate at “International Towers Sydney” with the likes of HSBC, Marsh & McLennan, Westpac, PwC and KPMG at Barangaroo; this is a serious grown-up operation, as global players seek out global players, the chosen few who wish to be part of the extraordinary economic growth story that is the city of Sydney. They are the best. And they seek out the best. Simple as that.

There was a bit of static from the local community about Barangaroo at the outset (I think perhaps the sheer size was unnerving, and it is the case that this is globalisation writ large), but now the development is nearing completion it has become a thing of pride to the people of Sydney, partly because of the quality of the architecture (our own Lord Rogers) and the finishes, and the planting (one local newspaper report compared it to the Hanging Gardens of Babylon), not least of all the opening up of the Botanical Gardens; and partly because of the serious effort put into community relations, everything from intensive work around jobs and training schemes on site for local people, through to the 12 weeks of public launch activities kicking off this Sunday with the biggest ever community picnic. The offices are more than 67% pre-committed, with over a year to go to completion of the last tower; and the residential is similarly going like wildfire. The die is cast: Barangaroo is an unqualified success.

Having gone on record as saying, back in November, that Australia’s loss (of Dan Labbad) was the UK’s gain, I think I may have spoken too soon.  Dan may be back over here for some of the time, but he is now operating on nothing short of a global platform, as Lend Lease is banking on an explosion in the number of major, place-making projects coming to the market worldwide, as it ramps up international operations.

The company now has a core strategy of only investing in what it considers to be major “gateway cities” with their large scale, mixed-use, urban renewal product. So we can expect to see the likes of Sydney’s Barangaroo and London’s Elephant & Castle matched with similar mixed-use Lend Lease leviathans (such poetic alliteration!) in Singapore and New York and Chicago.   This is a long-term play: as Dan says “… large projects, made up of multiple parts, give us the opportunity to regulate how and when we put in capital. When a project goes for 20 years, there are going to be two cycles in that. These projects allow us to prepare for that”.  Smart stuff huh? Also (and British developers please take note) an unassailable argument from a market-facing practitioner as to why urban regeneration, and a mix of uses, is wholly commercial, as well as in the public interest.

Well!  All I can say is, those “gateway cities” across the globe that are fortunate enough to attract the investment of Lend Lease would be well advised to welcome this long-term and savvy partner with open arms.  But one look at Barangaroo (or the aptly named Elephant come to that) will show you that these projects are not for the faint-hearted.


Read Jackie's Blog at: http://www.estatesgazette.com/blogs/jackie-sadek/2015/09/inspired-lend-leases-global-ambitions/#sthash.nP7pVPMX.dpuf

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