Google's plans for its next Australian HQ are in limbo

ELIJAH NOUVELAGE/AFP/Getty Images
  • Google has been looking for a new Sydney location for its headquarters for more than 3 years
  • It pulled out of an earlier plan at a heritage-listed former power station 12 months ago over concerns about a lack of transport access.
  • The latest proposal has been rejected by the NSW government because the plan did not meet its ‘unique’ test.

US tech giant Google is still on the hunt for a landmark headquarters in Australia after its latest plan to set up in disused railway yards on the edge of Sydney’s CBD was knocked by the New South Wales government.

Developer Mirvac had submitted an unsolicited proposal to the government for the redevelopment of land adjacent to the Carriageworks rail sheds at Eveleigh, including a high-rise tech hub with Google as the anchor tenant.

But the proposal has been rejected by cabinet’s infrastructure committee, according to Fairfax Media, falling at the first hurdle because it failed to meet the “uniqueness test”.

An unsolicited proposal was the method used by James Packer’s Crown for its casino at Barangaroo, as well as Macquarie Bank’s massive integrated office development in Martin Place.

To be unique, the proponent needs to show its plan can’t be replicated by a competitor.

In late 2015 Mirvac won a bid to redevelop an adjacent 14-hectare Redfern site, including the Australian Technology Park, three kilometres from the CBD, as part of a $263 million deal with the Commonwealth Bank as anchor tenant.

At the time, Australian tech giant Atlassian was backing rival Walker Corporation’s proposal for a technology hub in the area and planning minister Rob Stokes was at pains to emphasise that “our aspiration for this site is to continue the transformation from dilapidated railway buildings to a growing technology hub”.

Google has been searching for a new site after 12 months ago pulling out of plans for a new Australian HQ at the disused White Bay power station, two kilometres west of the CBD, because the government could not deliver the necessary transport infrastructure in time to ensure the site was viable.

Google MapsCarriageworks

The 12-hectare site Eveleigh site now up for grabs is owned by Transport for NSW, and the government wants it developed under a competitive tender.

Acting NSW Premier John Barilaro said they government needed to ensure it was making “the best investment for this site”.

“We’re not knocking back the idea” in rejecting the Mirvac proposal, he said.

The government wants to put the land out to tender because “it’s about making sure we get the best return on investment on behalf of the taxpayers of NSW,” Barilaro said.

Fairfax reports some senior government ministers are trying to save the Google plan.

Mirvac said its proposal, which includes commercial, arts, retail and residential development, with an upgrade to Redfern Station and bridges linking the Australian Technology Park and Carriageworks sites, currently bisected by multiple railway lines.

The developer said its proposal aligned with the government’s plans for Sydney.

“The proposal is in line with various Government objectives including the Greater Sydney Commission, UrbanGrowth and JobsforNSW strategies,” Mirvac said.

The government knockback does not rule out the plan, but Mirvac will once again need to beat rival bidders for the site. The tender process is expected to open before the end of the financial year.

Mirvac said its proposal “leveraged the technology eco-system Mirvac is currently developing at the Australian Technology Park and further expands this through amalgamating ATP with the North Eveleigh site and linking into the broader precinct.”

Google declined to comment on the project. The company remains at its existing Pyrmont site near the The Star casino and hotel.

NSW opposition leader Luke Foley said he was concerned that Victoria would lure the Google HQ to Melbourne.

“This is a missed opportunity for Sydney,” he said.

Fairfax has more here.

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