The Making Of: Westpac Place
Leighton Properties 2 Oct 2012
The KENS site was owned by a Hong Kong family. Leighton Properties secured a well-priced option over the property, and proceeded to develop a design. City of Sydney approved the DA and the Properties team worked on securing a pre-commitment; a task that proved to be more time-consuming than initially envisaged. Just as negotiations with Westpac were nearing completion, the option ran out! Managing Director at the time Vyril Vella, went to Hong Kong to convince the owner of the site to extend the option period – a precarious process involving a husband and wife team – that was ultimately successful.
The Westpac tenancy became the largest pre-commitment deal ever in Australia. Westpac also funded the building and then purchased it, relieving Leighton of any financial downside – the only risk being the construction delivery time frame.
Challenges soon emerged when it was discovered the site had virgin material from the early settlement of Sydney, making it of major significance to the archaeological and Aboriginal heritage fraternities. The excavation absorbed about four months of program delivery, which then had to be caught up through changes to the design and construction.
Internally, there was further turmoil. Due to management changes in the Leighton Construction company, it was decided that Vyril Vella should take over responsibility for the construction.
"I became the client and the contractor. There were some very peeved people in the construction business, but in the end it all panned out very well and what we did was the best outcome for the overall Group," said Vyril.
The site was delivered to Westpac on time, officially opened by the Hon John Howard MP, Prime Minister of Australia on 4 August 2006.
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