Article - The Advertiser - Eugene Boisvert, The City - October 27, 2017
WHEN developer Damon Nagel started thinking about building a giant new apartment complex on the edge of Whitmore Square, people tried to warn him off the idea.
He says they cautioned against the square’s seedy reputation but, undeterred, he could see the site’s appeal — on the only city square you can’t drive through — so pushed ahead with the $110 million investment.
That was five years ago and now, Mr Nagel’s company Starfish Developments, is two months away from completing the 22-storey Bohem apartments on Whitmore Square.
The gamble has paid off, with all but 18 of the 224 apartments in the building already sold ahead of the December 18 opening date.
“There’ll be 450-plus new residents moving into that area,” Mr Nagel says.
“There’ll be a fundamental shift in how Whitmore Square is thought of — but I think a positive one. We’ll probably be equally excited as the people moving in there.”
The area’s “community spirit”, the leafiness of Wright St and the closeness of the Central Market drew him to the area. He says there is a “definite shift” of people wanting to live in the city, boosted by Adelaide Oval and the introduction of small bar licences.
The new Royal Adelaide Hospital and the revitalisation of the West End are also attracting more people to the city’s southwest. But look closer and you’ll discover a strong community spirit and new creative edge is transforming the once-dormant corner.
Mr Nagel hopes his building, which has a 22m-high plant-covered wall in the lobby, will inspire more investors to consider the area.
“I think some businesses feel confident when they see activity like this going on and say, ‘I’ll take a punt on this,’ and I think generally there’s more activation in the city,” he says.
“The western side of Adelaide — it’s always been the quieter side — but now it seems more active than the east and there’s more edgy eateries and bars — so I think the future is bright.”
Former Lord Mayor and urban planner Stephen Yarwood lives in Wright St and says the area’s transformation was down to “lots of good things happening” at once.
“There’s this notion that success breeds success from entrepreneurs wiling and able to give it a crack, in terms of cafes and small businesses, to vacant buildings being available at a decent price and also the new developers,” Mr Yarwood affirms.
From the never-ending games at the Whitmore Square basketball court, to the hubs that are the Minor Works building and South West Community Centre, it is clear the area is keeping its community atmosphere despite all the changes.
“The character of any suburb is constantly evolving but what I’m seeing is a positive evolution of the southwest corner,” Mr Yarwood says.