There was tension in the air at the Mercure on Friday morning as a massive block of land in central Wagga went to auction.
The former Wagga Leagues Club site, bought in 2005 for $1.375 million after the club went into liquidation, was set to go under the hammer at 11am. But there was silence when the bidding opened, broken a few minutes later by a $2 million offer from former Committee 4 Wagga chief Chris Fitzpatrick. The auction continued for a few more minutes with the price slowly building from $2.25 million to $2.95 million before the property was passed in.
Selling agent Craig Tait from Raine & Horne Wagga said the slow start was surprising, given the unique size and location of the property.
“I guess with the players we have everyone keeps their cards close to their chest, no one wants to pay more than they have to” Mr Tait said. “There was a bit of a Mexican standoff there until someone got a bid in, but that can happen at these sort of auctions, it’s just a matter of putting the first step forward.”
Developers, both local and from interstate, will now negotiate with the agents for a final price on the property, but Mr Tait was confident there would be action on the ground within a year.
“Once the purchaser puts forward the money they’ll want to start pretty quick, you don’t want to hold millions of dollars of investment and not have it make money,” he said. “This is a bit of a unique opportunity and I hope we’ll find someone to capitalise on it.”
Even $2.95 million was considered a very low price for the 3.5 hectare site on Gurwood Street, which had immediate development approval for 10 dwellings and concept approval for a total of 140 medium-density dwellings.
Member for Riverina Michael McCormack welcomed future development on the site.
“This is a boom time for Wagga,” Mr McCormack said. “We know there’s confidence in the small business sector, there are a number of developments underway with the builders saying they’ve got a lot of work on and then the almost $1 billion defence investment.”
A lack of empty blocks in central Wagga made the land “absolute gold”, Mr McCormack said.
“This is a prime location, I’m eager to see what will happen,” he said.