Civic office block sells for $62 million

A Singapore-based investment firm will pay $62 million to buy a prime Civic office complex, which it is now planning to revitalise with a $50 million facelift.

SC Capital Partners late on Wednesday announced it had struck a deal to buy the Finlay Crisp Centre at 1 Constitution Avenue.

The Nara Centre, Allara House, and Customs House, which have been sold to a Singaporean company for $62 million. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

The Nara Centre, Allara House, and Customs House, which have been sold to a Singaporean company for $62 million. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

The precinct, which includes Customs House, Allara House and the Nara Centre, is fully occupied by ACT and Commonwealth public servants. The tenants, including the ACT government's chief ministers and treasury directorate and Department of Home Affairs, hold leases to the buildings until July 2020.

After those leases expire, the firm said it would start work on a $50 million refurbishment of the 1988-built complex in partnership with Sydney-based asset manager Artifex Property Group.

Artifex's director, Mark Frinsdorf, said the redevelopment would include a revamp of the precinct's central plaza and a major internal refurbishment of the buildings.

Mr Frinsdorf said work would start on Customs House and Allara House, which will be vacant next year as Home Affairs staff are moved to offices at Canberra Airport.

He said the group's plans for Nara Centre, which houses about 500 ACT government staff, were less certain. "With Nara, if the government wants to stay [beyond 2020] then we will work with that, and look at their requirements," Mr Frinsdorf said.

An ACT government spokeswoman said it did not know the extent of the proposed refurbishment, and was therefore unable to comment on how it might affect the agencies.

Mr Frinsdorf said the renovated space could be leased to government agencies or commercial tenants. He said the building's ground floor spaces were likely to be leased to food businesses, in the hope they would breathe life into the plaza.

"It's really a place-making project," Mr Frinsdorf said. "The plaza at the moment is not particularly inviting - nobody really wants to spend time there."

SC Capital Partners chairman Suchad Chiaranussati said the off-market purchase showed it was confident in the strength of Canberra's office market.

"With prime-grade office vacancy less than six per cent, coupled with strong tenant demand from government and related service providers, the property is well poised to deliver strong performance," Mr Chiaranussati said.

He said the refurbishment would provide future tenants with "gold standard accommodation and amenity, befitting the prime location."

Property Council ACT executive director Adina Cirson welcomed news of the sale.

"It is great to see increasing confidence in our market, and from foreign investors now actively seeking investment opportunities," Ms Cirson said