The ongoing regeneration of The Foundations Portland site, an iconic heritage and lakeside precinct in Portland, NSW is expected to revitalise the historic township and promote tourism in the Central West region.

The Foundations Portland precinct is located on the site of the former Portland Cement Works, one of Australia’s oldest cement plants, which opened 160 years ago and operated until 1991. Comprising a group of heritage-listed industrial buildings set among limestone lakes in Portland’s historic town centre, the 86-hectare site underwent an extensive clean-up after the plant’s closure, before being acquired in 2014 and rezoned for residential and commercial use. The site is now undergoing a regeneration similar in scale to that of Redfern’s Carriageworks.

Part of the Greater Blue Mountains, Portland is a well-known regional arts and cultural hub, which is increasing in prominence thanks to The Foundations’ regular calendar of artistic, community and private events.

The Foundations’ stakeholders are now in discussions with potential development partners and accommodation providers to develop visitor facilities on the lakeside land, which would help position Portland as a Sydney weekend destination, arts and events hub, and a natural gateway to the vibrant Central West tourism region that includes Mudgee, Orange and Bathurst.

The company is also engaging with hospitality operators, artisan retailers and food and beverage manufacturers for the adjacent heritage precinct.

Observing that the vision for Portland would see it recapture its former glory as the ‘town that built Sydney’, The Foundations Portland director and site owner, Martin O’Connell says, “Drawing on a unique industrial heritage, Portland has reinvented itself as a cultural hub, attracting visitors to a busy events calendar, as well as permanent residents seeking a tree-change to more affordable housing in an area of natural beauty.”

“Having established The Foundations as a feature of Portland, our priority now is to secure visitor accommodation for the lakeside precinct that aligns with our vision for the area.

“With regional tourism booming and many operators looking to broaden their portfolios into sustainable regional destinations with consistent visitor flows and value for their investment, we’re confident our proposal will resonate. The plan for The Foundations also aligns with the work underway to drive the economic transformation of the greater Lithgow area,” he says.

Sustainable redevelopment plan

Plans for Portland align with the NSW Government’s strategy for boosting the visitor economy in the state’s Central West. The latest Destination Management Plan for Central West NSW projects 5.2 million visitors, 6.3 million overnight stays and visitor spending of $1.35 billion annually by 2024.

As well as lakeside accommodation, the six-year masterplan for The Foundations envisages the adaptive re-use of the heritage precinct for a range of premium hospitality and lifestyle offerings including restaurants, breweries, bakeries and other artisan retail and food and beverage outlets, and event spaces. The redevelopment will complement existing attractions in the Portland area, including trout fishing, bushwalking and mountain-bike riding, and the NSW Government’s $50 million Gardens of Stone State Conservation Area is a short drive away.

Project lead for The Foundations, Sedrick Dahdah said the redevelopment would be sustainable for Portland on environmental, economic and social grounds.

“Our community-centric plan will create new economic opportunities for Portland, attracting visitors and new permanent residents, making best use of the town’s natural and built heritage, and embedding it more firmly in a wider regional context,” Dahdah said.  

Local housing to support green infrastructure boom

The staged release of more than 300 residential lots adjacent to The Foundations’ 86-hectare site will accommodate the expected growth in the town’s permanent population driven by tree-changers and workers at green energy projects being developed by Shell Energy, Energy Australia and Banpu Energy in the area.

Advisers to the redevelopment include Hatch Roberts Day (urban planning and place design), Ingram Advisory (hospitality specialists), Catalyst Project Consulting (project planning and management) and BellRinger (property advisory). Accommodation specialist Austgrowth is advising on engagement with potential development partners.