52 Reservoir by Cornerstone in collaboration with the Frack family, SJB & Growthbuilt


Cornerstone entered into a joint venture in June 2018 to redevelop the existing single storey workshop owned and operated by the Fracks since 1927.

Occupying a postage-stamp-sized site of 470 sqm – 52 Reservoir manages several planning, design, and construction challenges. The site is south facing, skinny, bounded by tall buildings to three sides, has a narrow frontage to Reservoir Street and a genuinely minuscule opening north to Foster Street. Additionally, early site investigations revealed the site was contaminated with high levels of benzo (a) pyrene and lead, and neighbouring buildings presented structural challenges with encroached and shallow footings.

To make the most of the opportunity we elected to organise a Design Competition under the City of Sydney model – rewarding the project with 10% of additional FSR if a jury is satisfied that design excellence is achieved. The winning entry by SJB was endorsed by the selection panel and Council resulting in an additional 240 sqm of FSR.

SJB’s strategy presented creative design solutions to the challenges of the site: pulling the building away from the western boundary to create a new pedestrian lane, while delivering natural light deep into the plan. This strategy also enabled the Reservoir Street edge to be liberated for retail activity. Most excitingly, the lane provides a public through-site link open to pedestrians for the first time since the early 20th century. This street level pedestrian permeability delivers significant public benefit.

Construction commenced 16 January 2020 and we reached Practical Completion 31 August 2021.

On completion a leasing suite was established, resulting in all 9 levels committed by mid-December 2021 with sqm leasing rates ranging from $1,000 to $1,200 (above budget) and incentives of 8-11% (below budget), this combined delivered a profit exceeding expectation – 38% return on costs up from the budgeted 22%.


Judges Comments

The judges were impressed by how the small project’s positive contributions to the public domain also benefits the lettable space. A new laneway, the catalyst for future connections, turns a blank façade into a wall of windows for the commercial floors and allows for flexible tenancy break-ups; at ground level it accommodates the commercial lobby with a retail tenancy activating the street.

Every square metre of space is maximised – from the luxe end of journey facilities to the communal rooftop for lunchbreaks, drinks and catered events. The site history is referenced in ironwork details and the glazed brick façade, the latter of which subtly changes colour across the shallow scalloped façade. Everything feels beautifully considered yet comfortable. 52 Reservoir Street proves that great things can come in small packages.