21 Oct 2015 by Business Advantage PNG
Work began this month to develop the Paga Hill Estate, at the iconic headland of Papua New Guinea’s capital city, Port Moresby. The development’s architect Paul Gallagher tells Business Advantage PNG the project will transform Port Moresby’s infrastructure and public accessibility.
After a controversial start, the Paga Hill Estate project has been now declared a ‘Project of National Significance’ by Papua New Guinea’s government and is expected to be ready to play a key role hosting the Leaders’ meeting at the APEC Summit in Port Moresby in 2018.
The Paga Hill area had been a squatter settlement since the mid-1990s, when a National Housing Corporation site was decommissioned. In May 2012, the company behind the project, Paga Hill Development Company, attracted controversy when it began demolishing squatters’ homes, prompting an injunction.
Eventually, a court ordered the squatters to move on. And in June 2014, the company resettled the 2,500-strong community after buying land at nearby Six Mile and moving them to that site, at the company’s expense.
Progressively, the community will establish housing on their individual lots. It was, says lead architect, Paul Gallagher, a key initiative for the successful development of the headland.
Gallagher, whose Sydney-based company Studio GA has been involved in the project for 12 years, says the scale of the development is ‘substantial’.
‘The second major stage was the building of the Ring Road,’ he tells Business Advantage PNG.
‘We’ve always proposed that the development be integrated into the city as the city grows,’ he says. ‘This is a long-term proposition.
‘When we started working on aspects of this project almost 15 years ago now, we were keen that the national government and the NCDC [National Capital District Commission] look at opportunities to improve Port Moresby, to consolidate the harbour with the city.’
‘The Ring Road links Paga Hill with the city and provides public access, which runs the full perimeter of the headland.
‘So we can now link the harbour and Ela Beach as one continuous corridor.
‘That has changed accessibility and changes the presentation of the city long-term, because now you have a frontage all the way round the headland back into the harbour.’
The site has now been cleared and civil and infrastructure works have commenced, according to Gallagher. The K85 million works program includes the benching and levelling of individual development sites across the hill, reconfiguration of Chalmers Crescent and the installation of all infrastructure for the site.
The Chief Executive Officer of Paga Hill Development Co, Gudmundur Fridriksson, says in five years time, the area will be ‘incredible, creating a whole new economy’ in the city.
Until now, he tells Business Advantage PNG, no-one has been able to enjoy the harbour. But with a planned 5.5 hectares of open space across the entire development, locals will be able to enjoy the waterfront, cafes, and galleries.
With a 99-year lease, the Paga Hill Development Company’s master plans include 68 serviced apartments as part of a six-star luxury hotel, commercial buildings, restaurants and eateries, a cultural centre, a marina and an international cruise liner terminal.
The hotel will contain 200 luxurious guest rooms, a large ballroom venue suitable for state dinners, conference and meeting room facilities, restaurants and cafes, with views across Fairfax Harbour and the Coral Sea.
There will be public access through marinas and cafes, and the city’s historic bunkers and remnants of World War Two that were used by the allied forces are to be preserved and showcased.
Fridriksson says restoration of the WWII remnants is being undertaken in consultation with the National Museum, and the Australian War Memorial. He envisions the Paga Hill war site will be used by visitors also going to the Kokoda Trail, Rabaul and other key theatres of conflict.
The high point for the Paga Hill development is that it will be the venue for the Leaders’ meetings at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit in Port Moresby in November, 2018, according to interim CEO Christopher Hawkins.
However, Gallagher emphasises that, while the anticipated NCDC approval establishes a master plan strategy for the estate, investment interest and market, demand will progressively roll out individual developments across the 22-hectare site.
He also says cruise-liners could bring tens of thousands of extra visitors annually, providing ‘an opportunity that’s too good to miss’.