An ambitious refurbishment of an iconic Sydney property overlooking the harbor has stalled and reportedly cost more than $10 million.
Former Aussie Home Loans CEO James Symond, nephew of the company’s well-known founder John Symond, has been building his dream home on a property formerly owned by the Packer family for more than two and a half years.
In mid-2020, Mr. Symond submitted his plans to redevelop the crumbling main residence on the 1,400-square-foot property into a two-story luxury residence at an estimated cost of $9.5 million.
However, The Australian reports that costs have exceeded $20 million as a massive industrial crane dominates the skyline above the unfinished works.
When Daily Mail visited the property, it looked like a public works site and there was the screaming of construction noise.
The ‘Girrahween’ property in Sydney’s posh suburb of Bellevue Hill was owned by the Packer family for nearly 50 years
An artist’s impression of the house being built by Mr Symond as set out in plans submitted to the council in June 2020
A huge crane towers over the rebuilding of Bellevue Hill, now owned by former Aussie Home Loans CEO James Symond.
There was a crew of at least 10 construction workers in safety helmets and hard hats working.
But perhaps in an example of some of Australia’s most understanding neighbors, a lady who lived next door to the construction site said she was resigned to the noise and disturbance.
“It’s been going on for two and a half years and it’s going to be another two years for sure,” she said.
“I made a kitchen and it took me 14 months!”
The woman, who declined to be named, said she was not surprised by the delays.
“They’ve had Covid, the rain and it’s a big building so I understand why it’s taken so long,” she said.
“There’s nothing I can do, really. I just have to accept it and swallow it.
“The builders have been very good. I asked them to board and they did so to give us more privacy and keep the dust out. My shutters were black with dust.
‘But there’s no point in complaining, that’s just living next to a construction site.
“Every second house on this street is being renovated – across the street they’re making two houses and cranes are everywhere.”
Heavy machinery was working on the property and was making a lot of noise, which a neighbor said they put up with
The house on the former Packer lot has been in the works for two and a half years
Another lady who lived across the street said, ‘They do what they have to do in the most polite way.’
Mr. Symond’s property is being built using commercial construction techniques, including a crane that would normally be used to build a skyscraper.
It was designed by Rob Mills architecture and the work is being carried out by Riboni Constructions Ltd, a company normally specializing in commercial and industrial construction.
He bought the ‘Girrahween’ property from liquor seller Gabor Kemeny for a reported $13 million in 2020. Kerry Packer sold the property to Mr. Kemeny in 2001 for $2.66 million after it had been in the family since 1954.
Plans for his rebuilding of the main residence, submitted to Woollahara Council, show five bedrooms, a gymnasium, a separate study and library for the nurse, formal and informal living and dining rooms, an internal lift and a ‘treatment room’.
There is also a street level pool and spa, underground parking, sunken courtyards, terraces and extensive landscaped gardens.
Mr. Symond is a former CEO of Aussie Home Loans, the mortgage lender founded by his uncle John Symond
Work on Mr. Symond’s property has reportedly become more expensive than the original estimate of $9.5 million
The posh eastern suburb of Bellevue Hill is definitely undergoing a construction boom.
Daily Mail Australia counted eight houses close to Mr Symond’s property undergoing major refurbishment.
Trucks were double-parked on the exclusive street, just steps from billionaire Roz Packer’s compound – the largest landholding in the suburb.
Other famous residents of the affluent area include Hollywood actors Will Smith, Toni Collette and her ex-husband David Galfassi, along with media empire heir Lachlan and Sarah Murdoch.
Mr. Symond and his wife Amelia would look forward to swapping their apartment for the sprawling new home.
The couple bought two luxury units in Mirvac’s Walsh Bay development, near the city center, in 2000 for $2.3 million and then the property next door for 2005 for $2.2 million.
Mr. Symond may have deeper pockets than many, but he’s not the only homeowner feeling the pain of rising construction costs, which are rising twice as fast as inflation.
Another property on Kambala Road was also one of many houses to undergo major works in Sydney’s wealthy neighbourhood
Home construction costs rose 10 percent in the year to June 2022 as the price of wood and metal skyrocketed, the Cordell Construction Cost Index showed in July last year.
CoreLogic’s construction cost estimating manager John Bennett said Australians will likely have to wait longer for their new home to be built.
“A shortage of labor and materials means delays in completion times, leaving builders vulnerable to market changes and maintenance costs,” he said.
Project architect Rob Mills and engineers Van Der Meer have been contacted for comment.
A detail of the architect’s plan for the new house, which includes a ‘treatment room’ and an elevator
The property has stunning views of Sydney Harbor and was purchased in 2020 by James Symond for $13 million