Sydney business owners blindsided by forceful acquisition after Metro West train station announcement

By: Kevin Nguyen and Jonathan Hair

Devastated business owners in Sydney’s CBD say they were blindsided by a NSW government announcement that their buildings would be forcibly acquired to make way for two train stations.

The decision to build stations for the Sydney Metro West line in Pyrmont and Hunter Street was announced at 8:00am yesterday.

But the ABC filmed Sydney Metro representatives going store-to-store over six hours later to deliver the bad news before handing owners a glossy booklet explaining the project and the acquisition process.

Star Casino says the project puts its $1 billion hotel redevelopment at “grave risk” and it were only notified of the property acquisition by email yesterday morning.

Last year, Star proposed to build two hotel towers in Pyrmont on land now set aside for the metro station.

“The Star [development] would help deliver an additional $1 billion in tourism assets and infrastructure via two hotels, new dining and entertainment precincts and around 2,000 jobs,” a spokesperson said.

“We will seek urgent engagement with government to determine if and how our plans can be progressed in tandem with the metro station development.”

Inside the Hunter Connection shopping centre in the CBD, jewellery store owner Kim Jogiya wanted to refurbish her shop after a difficult year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, her plans have been dashed by yesterday’s announcement.

The stations would cater to three million people and commuters would be able to travel from Parramatta to the CBD in just 20 minutes.

Transport Minister Andrew Constance said the government would need to demolish 13 commercial buildings as part of the construction.

For Ms Jogiya and several other store owners inside the shopping centre who spoke to the ABC, this was news to them.

“I was very shocked, I’m still affected… this is very sad news, I feel like crying,” Ms Jogiya said.

Ms Jogiya was forced to relocate out of the Hunter Arcade four years ago to make way for the Wynyard Station upgrade.

“We thought everything would be settled and everything will be back to normal.

“It’s very hard to find a spot, in my case I just want something small [but] the area, the location, the rent… everything will be very costly.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

A spokeswoman for the Transport Minister said “some” owners in affected buildings were told they would need to relocate but Sydney Metro were in the process of advising the remaining ones today.

“Sydney Metro has been gradually informing businesses throughout today and have a mammoth task ahead of them,” she said.

The spokeswoman said it was the government’s preference to inform businesses face-to-face, but it had stumbled upon some complications.

Because Mr Constance’s media conference was at 8:00am, many businesses around Hunter Street hadn’t opened yet.

She said representatives from Sydney Metro had also been unable to access some businesses whose staff may be working from home.

Two of the buildings to be acquired are in Pyrmont and 11 are in the CBD, including the Hunter Connection building, which houses a popular food court.

“The Hunter Connection is part of that acquisition program, but we will work with those businesses, compensate those businesses, we’ll help relocate those businesses,” Mr Constance said yesterday.

“Due to COVID, there’s quite a significant vacancy rate across the city. We have seen an increase in the vacancy rate of about 8 per cent, so there will be that opportunity for businesses to reestablish themselves.”

But for tailor Jospeh Ng, who has been inside the centre for more than 10 years, the acquisition process meant more than just moving his shop.

Like Ms Jogiya and others, he only learnt about the stations yesterday afternoon.

He said he worried about what would happen to the part-time workers he employs.

“We don’t know what’s going on or [what] the government is going to offer… [for now] we’re still going to keep the business going,” he said.

A spokesperson for Sydney Metro said the businesses in the 13 buildings across the CBD and Pyrmont earmarked for acquisition had been informed of the relocation process yesterday morning.

“Owners and tenants were advised they will have plenty of time to relocate as the buildings will not be required until late 2022,” the spokesperson said.

“All owners and tenants will be entitled to compensation in accordance with the Just Terms Act, including relocation costs.”

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