A bold plan to revitalise the historic township of Portland, part of the Greater Blue Mountains, is a step closer to being realised, with the owner of the town’s prominent heritage and lakeside precinct in discussions with potential development partners and accommodation providers.
The Foundations Portland precinct occupies the site of one of Australia’s oldest cement works, which opened 160 years ago and operated until 1991, and is now undergoing a regeneration similar in scale to that of Redfern’s Carriageworks.
Comprising a group of heritage-listed industrial buildings set among limestone lakes in Portland’s historic town centre, the 86-hectare site underwent an extensive clean-up after cement operations ceased before being acquired in 2014 and rezoned for residential and commercial use.
Portland’s reputation as a regional arts and cultural hub has steadily grown in recent years based on the regular calendar of artistic, community and private events held at The Foundations.
An artist-inresidence program with renowned sculptor Harrie Fasher also draws visitors, and plans are to develop a studio and expand the residency program in partnership with the National Art School.
Identifying an accommodation partner to participate in a release of lakeside land on the site is a vital step in positioning Portland as a Sydney weekend destination, arts and events hub, and a natural gateway to the vibrant Central West tourism region that includes Mudgee, Orange and Bathurst.
The company is also engaging with hospitality operators, artisan retailers and food and beverage manufacturers for the adjacent heritage precinct.
The Foundations Portland Director and site owner, Martin O’Connell, said the vision for Portland would see it recapture its former glory as the ‘town that built Sydney’.
“Drawing on a unique industrial heritage Portland has reinvented itself as a cultural hub, attracting visitors to a busy events calendar, as well as permanent residents seeking a tree-change to more affordable housing in an area of natural beauty,” Mr O’Connell said.
“Having established The Foundations as a feature of Portland, our priority now is to secure visitor accommodation for the lakeside precinct that aligns with our vision for the area.
“With regional tourism booming and many operators looking to broaden their portfolios into sustainable regional destinations with consistent visitor flows and value for their investment, we’re confident our proposal will resonate. The plan for The Foundations also aligns with the work underway to drive the economic transformation of the greater Lithgow area,” he said.
Sustainable redevelopment plan
Plans for Portland align with the NSW Government’s strategy for boosting the visitor economy in the state’s Central West. The latest Destination Management Plan for Central West NSW projects 5.2 million visitors, 6.3 million overnight stays and visitor spending of $1.35 billion annually by 2024.
As well as lakeside accommodation, the six-year masterplan for The Foundations envisages the adaptive re-use of the heritage precinct for a range of premium hospitality and lifestyle offerings including restaurants, breweries, bakeries and other artisan retail and food and beverage outlets, and event spaces. The redevelopment will complement existing attractions in the Portland area, including trout fishing, bushwalking and mountain-bike riding, and the NSW Government’s $50 million Gardens of Stone State Conservation Area is a short drive away.
Project lead for The Foundations, Sedrick Dahdah, said the redevelopment would be sustainable for Portland on environmental, economic and social grounds.
“Our community-centric plan will create new economic opportunities for Portland, attracting visitors and new permanent residents, making best use of the town’s natural and built heritage, and embedding it more firmly in a wider regional context,” Mr Dahdah said.
Advisers to the redevelopment include Hatch Roberts Day (urban planning and place design), Ingram Advisory (hospitality specialists), Catalyst Project Consulting (project planning and management) and BellRinger (property advisory). Accommodation specialist Austgrowth are advising on engagement with potential development partners.
Local housing to support green infrastructure boom Plans also include the staged release of residential land adjacent to The Foundations’ 86-hectare site to accommodate expected growth in the town’s permanent population driven by tree-changers and workers at green energy projects under development nearby.
Shell Energy last month announced plans to partner with Greenspot on the development of a 1GWhr battery energy storage system on the site of the former Wallerawang Power Station nearby while Energy Australia’s pumped hydro project at Lake Lyall is progressing.
Both projects are expected to result in an influx of workers needing short- and long-term accommodation. Banpu Energy is also in the early planning stages of a 130MWp solar farm on a 300-hectare site near Portland.
The Foundations will make available more than 300 residential lots over a six-year period, starting with an initial release of 20 dwellings in late 2023 in partnership with McDonald Jones Homes.