North Sydney’s Tallest Tower Tops Out

5 December 2022

The tallest tower in North Sydney’s CBD, the world-class 88 Walker Street development, has achieved a major construction milestone, “topping out” at Level 50, an impressive 180 metres above street level. A transformational development, 88 Walker Street also represents the first brand-new mixed-use tower in North Sydney.

Designed by award-winning, high-profile architects fitzpatrick+partners, 88 Walker Street is being developed by Billbergia. It comprises 24 levels of commercial office space, acquired earlier in 2022 by LaSalle Investment Management and a 252-suite 4-star hotel, snapped up by Singaporean-based Ascott Limited in 2019.

The “topping out” milestone was celebrated with an on-site event showcasing the towers panoramic views of the Sydney CBD including famous harbour icons the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Distinctive features of 88 Walker Street include its sleek, striking glass façade, 50-level column-suspended structure, and its flawless, heritage-considered integration with the former North Sydney Fire Station, now the Firehouse Hotel.

A signature element of the design is its unique cantilever, enabling the building to sit suspended above the Firehouse Hotel and dramatically increasing the floorspace from around 4,000 square metres to more than 22,800 square metres.

This engineering feat was achieved through a collaboration between TTW, structural engineers and WSP, service and planning engineers and Billbergia’s in-house construction engineers. Billbergia further ensured structural stability through substantial composite steel and post-tensioned transfer, in addition to analysis of the structure’s lean and wind loading.

“It is a great privilege to contribute to North Sydney’s revitalisation with the addition of such an iconic design to the city’s skyline,” said Saul Moran, Development Manager at Billbergia.

According to Billbergia, the site had more than 210 workers daily at its peak. The project is forecast to generate over 1,000 jobs including permanent roles within the Hotel and retail components on completion.

With a relatively constrained area of just 650 square metres, the site posed several development challenges that were overcome through the project team’s collaboration and combined innovation.

“The concept of cantilevering the building unlocked the ability for us to develop the air space above the Firehouse Hotel and maximise the efficiency of the tower,” Mr Moran said.

He noted that when complete in 2023, 88 Walker Street will revitalise North Sydney, aligned with North Sydney Council’s vision to create a vibrant CBD precinct.

Street and 100 Mount Street effectively creating a new food and beverage destination in the heart of the CBD.

A through-site link connects Walker Street to Little Spring Street and together with a café and associated seating areas, will increase activation in line with North Sydney Council’s Laneway Network initiative.

Making a significant contribution to public amenity in North Sydney’s CBD, the ground floor lobby to the office and hotel at 88 Walker Street flows into the public domain of the neighbouring 1 Denison.

With a brand new 252-room hotel managed by The Ascott Limited, Citadines Walker North Sydney will occupy 20 levels of the tower including two floors of guest amenity comprising a restaurant, bar, residents lounge, gym, and hotel reception.

David Mansfield, The Ascott Limited Managing Director – Australia, expresses his excitement for continued growth of Ascott’s key brands in the Australian market: Citadines, Quest Apartment Hotels, lyf and Oakwood, recently added in the portfolio. “We are delighted to expand our presence in Sydney, consolidating our Citadines brand and its signature For the Love of the Cities around Australia.”

Commercial office floors commence from Level 25 and will deliver approximately 12,500 square metres of light-filled, open-plan, A-Grade office accommodation with views spanning Sydney Harbour and to Sydney CBD.

According to LaSalle Investment Management, the boutique nature of the offering has appealed to tenants from a range of sectors including healthcare, finance, and technology.

10% of the commercial office floors have been pre-leased, with a further 10% under offer through exclusive leasing agents Colliers International and CBRE. While tenancy details remain confidential, it is believed 88 Walker Street has set record rental rates for the North Sydney commercial office sector.

“88 Walker Street is delivering to tenants’ post-COVID-19 wish list with smaller floorplates appealing to small and medium-sized tenants, enabling them to secure a brand-new whole-floor space within a world-class sustainable building,” said Simon Howard, Co-Head of Australia, LaSalle Investment Management.

“The striking architecture and next-generation workspaces combined with the views and amenity on offer have been major draw cards for tenants. We have seen a trend for tenants to relocate from the traditional Sydney CBD, further testimony to the overall transformation of North Sydney CBD precinct which is now home to many large corporates including Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Nine Entertainment, and Fairfax,” he said.

With an average, subdivisible floor plate size of 560 square metres, a unique design element at 88 Walker Street is its glass-encased “skylink” – fire stairs that provide inter-floor connectivity, enabling vertical business-villages to be created within multi-floor tenancies.

An innovative side core enables some levels of the tower to be integrated, providing multi-level offices of up to 1,700 square metres in size.

88 Walker Street boasts an impressive eight levels of facilities across the hotel and commercial components, including ground-floor cafe, a restaurant, executive lounge, hotel gym, and three levels of end-of-trip tenant amenities.

Importantly, separation of the hotel and commercial office components is achieved with a hotel lobby entrance on the ground floor and a multi-storey lobby incorporating escalator access to the dedicated office lobby on Level One.

With ESD at the core of its design, 88 Walker Street is targeting a 4.5-Star NABERS rating and a 5-Star Green Star rating with sustainability features including a high-performance building façade, high efficiency HVAC systems design, low energy lighting systems and optimal BMCS design, commissioning, and operation.

Interestingly, the building includes 105 bicycle holding spaces within the end-of-trip facilities and no car parking, relying on its connectivity to the forthcoming North Sydney Metro Station, North Sydney Train Station, and with numerous public car parks in the immediate vicinity.

88 Walker Street is scheduled for completion in Q2 2023.