Hub Australia to move coworking into Sydney’s historic Customs House


Hub Australia is poised to expand in Sydney, proposing to splurge $4.5 million on a coworking conversion in Sydney’s Customs House.

The company, which is Australia’s largest privately held coworking space provider, has signed a heads of agreement with the City of Sydney on levels three and four of the building and wants to refurbish it into flexible workspace as its third Sydney site.

Owned by the Department of Finance on behalf of the Commonwealth, Customs House, at 31 Alfred Street, is under a 60-year lease to the City of Sydney, which began in 1998. The sandstone building was leased to the council at the time so it could be repurposed as a cultural and community facility.

The Commonwealth-owned Customs House (pictured in 1995) has since been transformed into a cultural and community centre. Photo: James Alcock

While level three is unoccupied, level four is sub-leased to fund manager CHAMP Group Services, which requested an early exit from the tenancy as it no longer needed the space.

Colliers International was appointed to seek a tenant for level three, which was until early 2017 occupied by the Sydney Opera House Trust. But as the new tenant Hub Australia needed two levels, the council agreed to allow CHAMP an early exit.

The new sub-lease to Hub Australia will commence on December 1, 2018.

While it is not known how much Hub Australia will pay in rent, council documents show the sub-lease of levels three and four will “result in better rental return for the council” compared with the previous tenancy.

A Hub Australia spokesperson said they were “unable to comment on the potential site at Customs House, Sydney, at this time”.

A City of Sydney spokesperson told Commercial Real Estate levels three and four had previously been used for office tenancies and will be “publicly accessible as a coworking space”.

Hub Australia has two sites in Sydney, including a Darlinghurst site near Hyde Park. Photo: SuppliedHub Australia has two sites in Sydney, including a Darlinghurst site near Hyde Park. Photo: Supplied

The flexible workspace occupies about 2000 square metres across both levels will be designed to accommodate 425 workers.

Heritage features will be retained, including the Clock Room dating back to the 1890s, which controls the iconic clock on the building’s façade, according to application documents.

Floorplans show that the space will be dominated by private office rooms with five 20-person suites and seven eight-person rooms, reflecting the demand from larger businesses.

There are also spaces to cater for solo workers.

Other features proposed include a 56-seat café, members kitchen, media hub, library, phone booths, wellness room, fitness studio, showers and meeting rooms.

“Hub Australia’s business model requires space that is made up of variable-sized offices, with open areas for collaboration, networking and the sharing of ideas. This provides a highly activated environment in which Hub’s clientele thrive,” application documents wrote.

Built in 1844, the former Customs House was the Australian Customs Service headquarters for 145 years, and was the only shipping controller at the time in the NSW colony, which was dependent on taxes and tariffs coming from maritime trade.

It also controlled immigration in the 19th and early 20th century, before the department left the building in 1990.

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