An ambitious rebuild of an iconic Sydney property overlooking the harbour has bogged down and reportedly blown out in cost by more $10million.
Former Aussie Home Loans CEO James Symond, who is nephew to 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 lodged his plans to redevelop the crumbling main residence on the 1,400 square metre property into a two-storey luxury abode at an estimated cost of $9.5million.
However, The Australian reports costs have blown out past $20million as a huge industrial crane dominates the skyline over the unfinished works.
When Daily Mail visited the property it resembled a public works site and there was the clamour of construction noise.
The ‘Girrahween’ property in the ritzy Sydney suburb of Bellevue Hill belonged to the Packer family for almost 50 years
An artist’s impression of the house being built by Mr Symond as outlined in plans submitted to council in June 2020
A huge crane towers over the rebuild of Bellevue Hill property, now owned by former Aussie Home Loans CEO James Symond.
There was a crew of at least 10 builders in high-vis and hard hats busy at work.
But perhaps in an example of some of the most understanding neighbours in Australia, a lady living next door to the construction site said she was resigned to the noise and disruption.
‘It’s been going on for two-and-a-half years and it will definitely take another two, ‘ she said.
‘I did a kitchen and it took 14 months!’
The woman, who did not want to be named, said she wasn’t surprised by the delays.
‘They have had Covid, the rain and it’s a big building, so I get why it’s taken so long,’ she said.
‘There’s nothing I can do, really. I’ve just got to put up with it and suck it up.
‘The builders have been really good. I asked them to put boarding up and they did to give us more privacy and to stop the dust. My shutters were black with dust.
‘But there’s no point complaining – that’s just living next to a building site.
‘Every second house in this street is being renovated — across the road they’re turning one house into two and there’s cranes everywhere.’
Heavy machinery was at work on the site causing a great deal of noise, which a neighbour said they were resigned to
Work on the rebuild of the house on the former Packer property has been going on for two and a half years
Another lady living across the street said: ‘They are doing what they have to do in the most polite way possible.’
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 undertaken by Riboni Constructions Ltd, a firm which normally specialises in commercial and industrial construction.
He purchased the ‘Girrahween’ property from liquor seller Gabor Kemeny for a reported $13million in 2020. Kerry Packer sold the property to Mr Kemeny for $2.66million in 2001 after it had been in the family since 1954.
The plans for his rebuild of the main residence which were lodged with Woollahara Council show five bedrooms, a gym, nurse’s separate study and library, formal and informal living and dining rooms, internal lift and a ‘treatment room’.
There is also an above street level pool and spa, underground parking, sunken courtyards, terraces and extensively landscaped gardens.
Mr Symond is a former CEO of Aussie Home Loans, the mortgage lender founded by his uncle John Symond
The work on Mr Mr Symond’s property has reportedly blown out in cost from its original $9.5million estimate
The posh eastern suburb of Bellevue Hill is certainly undergoing something of a building boom.
Daily Mail Australia counted eight houses near Mr Symond’s property undergoing major construction.
Trucks were double-parked up and down the exclusive street which is just a stone’s throw from billionaire Roz Packer’s compound – the largest landholding in the suburb.
Other famous residents of the well-heeled area have included 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 be looking forward to swapping their apartment living for the sprawling new house.
The couple bought two luxury units in the Mirvac’s Walsh Bay development, near the city centre, for $2.3million in 2000 and then the one next door for 2005 for $2.2million.
Mr Symond might have deeper pockets than many but he isn’t the only homeowner to feel the pain of surging construction costs, which have been surging at double the pace of inflation.
Another property on Kambala road was also among the many houses undergoing major works in the wealthy Sydney neigbourhood
Residential building costs surged by 10 per cent in the year to June 2022 as the price of timber and metals skyrocketed, the Cordell Construction Cost Index showed in July last year.
CoreLogic’s construction cost estimation manager John Bennett said Australians were likely to be kept waiting longer for their new house to be built.
‘A shortage of labour and materials means a delay in completion times, which leaves builders vulnerable to market changes and holding costs,’ he said.
The project’s 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 contains a ‘treatment room’ and a lift
The property has sweeping views of Sydney Harbour and was bought by James Symond for $13million in 2020
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