Square deal: We got it right

SIRONA CAPITAL boss Matthew McNeilly says a large investor looking to buy a stake in Kings Square is a sign they got the redevelopment right.

“We are not bailing on Kings Square,” Mr McNeilly told the Herald this week following reports a company linked to one of Australia’s richest families was poised to take a 75 per cent stake in the revamped Myer/Queensgate buildings for around $250 million.

Mr McNeilly said Sirona was still negotiating with a number of potential investors, and wouldn’t comment on what the deal would be worth, but when the Herald suggested the billionaire Liberman family showing interest in the port city was a significant development, his response suggested they were definitely in the mix.

Back in 2015 the Victorian-based Libermans were ranked third on the BRW Rich Families List with a net worth of $2.4b.

The Australian Financial Review reported two weeks ago that Joshua Liberman’s CVS Lane Capital Partners, which also boasts former Australian prime minister Julia Gillard as one of its directors, was behind the bid to buy into the square.

Mr McNeilly said the Kings Square development had proven to be the catalyst Sirona and the council wanted to revitalise Fremantle.

He praised Silverleaf Investment’s redevelopment of the Manning Buildings and pointed to the upcoming opening of the Prendiville family’s boutique hotel at the Warders Cottages, and start of the Little Lane development as signs of the city’s emergence from the doldrums.

“I come down on the weekends and three or four times during the week … and there is definitely a new buzz about,” he said.

“Without trying to sound like I’m taking credit for everything, this is what I’m most proud about.”

Mr McNeilly said the FOMO retail component of the development was now 75 per cent leased. While it doesn’t look like there’ll be a pre-Christmas opening to give tenants a head-start, he says they are trying to tie it to the opening of the council’s new Walyalup Civic Centre towards the end of the first quarter next year.

Former councillors John Dowson and Bill Massie say developers are profiting while ratepayers are lumped with debts from Kings Square. Photo supplied.

But some disagree

TWO former Fremantle councillors held a small protest in Kings Square last week, saying a deal between developer Sirona Capital and the council had left the former wading in cash and the latter sinking in debt.

John Dowson, now president of the Fremantle Society, was one of two councillors who voted against a memorandum of understanding between the city and Sirona in 2011 (Donna Haney the other), while Bill Massie was a big critic.

Following reports Sirona had sold a stake in the development to a capital firm for around $250m, the pair took to the square with a big whiteboard proclaiming: “We told you so!”.

“I voted against it because, while I was keen to see revitalisation, I thought the basic premise was flawed,” Mr Dowson said.

“Council was providing 80 per cent of the land for the deal (17,800sqm against Sirona’s 4,500sqm) and discounted properties, which it could have leased (as Perth Airport does) instead of handing it over.

Mr Dowson said if the reported $250m sale for a 75 per cent slice of the project was correct, the project’s value had now leaped to $333m.

“Given that Sirona apparently put $220m in, that is a healthy profit of over 50 per cent – or $113m if fully sold.”

“What has the community gained? A debt approaching what – $40m? “Plus an unfinished project

with serious doubts about shopping and dining experiences ‘unlike anything seen before’, a shell of an admin building, and a reneging on the development of the Spicer site – a key part of the whole show.”

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