Major changes are afoot for Merimbula's CBD if a proposal by developer and long-term landlord in the town, Robert Green, receives approval.
Mr Green is proposing a complete redevelopment of his site - some 4000sqm at 29-33 Market St - which includes the Westpac Bank in Market St, south to the intersection, taking in Swannies, the newsagency, Nosh and the Merimbula Visitor Information Centre.
The DA has been submitted to council but because it includes a request to increase height levels from the current 13m to 18m, it must go to the NSW State Government for gateway approval before the DA can be considered in its own right.
The proposal would see demolition of the existing shops - possibly staged - and new construction comprising ground floor retail with an upper ground floor for services and then a further four storeys of apartments.
In all there would be 52 apartments with 114 above ground car parking spaces and a wider arcade or laneway in the area between Swannies and Merimbula Extra, to allow for greater activation. The apartments would be in three buildings across the site.
Mr Green said "there was recognition that no one wanted a huge block of units" and that the apartments were "being pitched at the top end" with units in three buildings.
He said the building platform would be built up to accommodate flood risks and acknowledged that water table issues would mean ensuring concrete piles or feet extended into the ground some 15m to ensure they were in solid rock.
"We've been through this issue in 1989 when we built. We had a geotech study done and we had to pile drive into solid rock about 15m down.
"The water table has already influenced us and that is why there is no underground parking," he said.
Asked whether he would be seeing the project through or whether he was hoping to sell the site as and when he received approval, Mr Green said it was his intention to keep it in the family.
But he said it would be dependent on finance and market conditions.
"Provided that the DA is approved, it is our intention to do the work ourselves. We have owned the bulk of the property for 40 years and would like to retain our interest in the town," Mr Green said.
He has spoken with his tenants, there are about 20 of them, Mr Green said, to explain the plans. While some may be happy to take a break when work starts he acknowledged that there were some - such as the Westpac Bank - who could not do that and so development might have to be staged.
Whatever happens now, demolition or building work is unlikely to start anytime soon. Gateway approval might not be received until late this year at best.
"Basically we're looking further ahead than 2023," Mr Green said.
Council has encouraged development in Bega and Merimbula town centres and in its Commerical Strategy, said it would consider site-specific proposals, with a land area greater than 2000sqm, to increase the maximum height of buildings in Merimbula by way of a combined Planning Proposal and Development Application that allows the community to evaluate the details of each proposal.
Council staff have recommended the proposal be submitted to the Department of Planning and Environment for gateway determination and following gateway determination, the proposal be placed on public exhibition.
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