Construction is expected to start soon on a much anticipated luxury residential development on Wollongong's Cliff Road.
Developer Peter Taranto has revealed work will begin within a short period on the $68 million project, called The Esplanade, at 72-74 Cliff Road.
There has been considerable community and business interest in the future of the land since the Villa Maria Nursing Home, which had occupied the site since the early 1970s, was demolished in June 2002 and its services relocated to Unanderra.
The interest has been fuelled because the large parcel of land, about 4515 square metres, is the last available vacant block of that size on the strip of real estate known as the golden mile.
The Esplanade, a 34-apartment dual-tower complex, has also piqued curiosity because as a $68 million project it will be one of Wollongong's largest and most expensive residential developments.
Since the apartments went on the market last year as off-the-plan purchases, there has
been close to $30 million in pre-sales.
The project has been a long time in the pipeline for Mr Taranto and Alex Pupovac, co-owners of the land since 2002 and the developers of The Esplanade, through their company Belmore Developments Pty Ltd.
Originally bought as an 11,500 square metre site, stage one of the development comprised the construction of two eight-storey buildings, completed in 2005, and known as Watermark.
Mr Taranto said the Watermark development, which has access from Corrimal Street, was on a separate title and completely independent to the second stage, The Esplanade.
Further delays to The Esplanade project happened when Beechwood Homes, one of NSW's largest residential building firms, was placed into voluntary administration.
Beechwood Homes had owned the Cliff Road land with Mr Taranto and Mr Pupovac, and following the company's collapse, the two Wollongong developers bought out Beechwood's shares in the land.
Then, in 2011, Mr Taranto and Mr Pupovac submitted a Section 96 application to Wollongong City Council to modify the original 2002 development application for the dual residential towers fronting Cliff Road.
The developers sought to alter the approved original plans to create a more contemporary building design.
The application was approved by council after 19 months, Mr Taranto said.
"We've been delayed by various things and now we are excited to announce that we intend to start construction shortly," he said yesterday.
The Esplanade features 11 units in the front building and 23 units in the back building, as well as six retail shops on the ground floor with Cliff Road frontage.
"There are presently 18 pre-sold out of the 34," Mr Taranto said.
The configuration of units, which range in price from $750,000 to $3.95 million, include two bedrooms, three bedrooms, sub-penthouse and penthouse.
Mr Taranto expects construction will be completed and residents will be moving in by early 2015.
"For Wollongong it's the last major development opportunity on Cliff Road, which means it's the last purchasing opportunity for a lot of people to be on Cliff Road simply because you can't consolidate or acquire another 4515 square metres along the beachfront," Mr Taranto said.
He said only single, smaller sites would be available.
Mr Taranto said 30 per cent of people who had bought units off the plan lived outside the Illawarra.