Urbanest’s objective

To create a fully catered high-rise student accommodation development, the first of its kind in Australia.


The project consisted of the construction of neighbouring 19 and 21 storey buildings, providing a total of 1,300 student beds and associated facilities within the Darling Harbour Live Precinct. 

The project was delivered using Early Contractor Involvement (ECI) to address particular site location risks, being within Lendlease’s Darling Harbour Live Precinct, and specific risks associated with underground sewer infrastructure and immediately adjacent light rail.

Johnstaff’s role

Johnstaff was appointed as the project manager from initiation through to the commissioning and handover, including negotiation of the deeds with Transport for NSW and Transdev, as well as the Development Management Agreement with Lendlease.

Addressing the issues

Johnstaff worked closely with Urbanest on the development of the relevant works deeds and safety interface documents with Transport for NSW and Transdev that were required prior to works being able to commence.

Johnstaff was also instrumental in working with third parties to close out requirements around development, planning, service amplification, long lead in items (bathroom pods and FF&E) and conditions precedent to enable financial close to the site. 

In tandem with the above issues, Johnstaff developed the design with the ECI contractor within the budget and programme required by Urbanest to meet the start of the 2018 academic year. 

Johnstaff’s experience enabled us to identify and target particular risks that would affect both programme and cost whilst maintaining the design development of the project in anticipation of construction commencing onsite to meet strict timeframes aligned with academic years.

map of the project location


  • Provided accommodation for 1300 university students

  • Significant authority and development deeds and approvals achieved within strict timeframes

  • Extensive stakeholder coordination and communication throughout the design and delivery phase

  • Project was completed within budget using an ECI process