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Ford sells historic factory sites to Pelligra Group

Still standing: Ford’s original factory site on the Princes Highway at Norlane, in Geelong’s northern suburbs, is arguably the home of the Australian motor industry, dating back to 1926.

Developer to build hi-tech industry hubs at Ford factory sites in Melbourne, Geelong

17 May 2019

MELBOURNE-BASED development company Pelligra Group has emerged as the winning bidder for Ford Australia’s former factory sites at Campbellfield and Geelong in Victoria, purchasing the properties that were valued at about $75 million when placed on the market last year for an undisclosed sum.


Pelligra, which is also redeveloping Holden’s former Elizabeth factory site in South Australia, said in a statement released today that it will initially commit $500 million for stage one of the “urban renewal project” that covers around 100 hectares and more than 265,000 square metres of factory floor across the two sites.


These comprise the old Broadmeadows car assembly plant on Melbourne’s northern fringe, and the historic engine and casting plants – including the heritage-listed art deco facade – on the Princes Highway at Norlane, in Geelong’s northern suburbs, where Ford’s original factory was built in 1926.


The last vehicles rolled off the line at Broadmeadows on October 7, 2016, while engine production at Geelong finished a week earlier.


This was the beginning of the end for mass vehicle manufacturing in Australia, with Holden and Toyota following suit and closing their local car production facilities 12 months later. 


Ford Australia will retain its research, design and engineering facilities in both Campbellfield and Geelong, along with the nearby You Yangs proving ground at Lara, which collectively employ around 1600 people and will continue to develop vehicles for the Asia-Pacific region and beyond.


According to Ford, Pelligra won the right to purchase the sites based on their plans and “appreciation for the significance of the sites’ histories to the local communities”.


Just as the Holden site development is now called ‘Lionsgate’, the two Ford sites now up for subdivision will carry references to their past with the names ‘Fortek Geelong’ and ‘Assembly Broadmeadows’.


Pelligra Group chairman Ross Pelligra described the Ford locations as “significant historical manufacturing sites”.


“Through our investment in the area, we intend to help rejuvenate and grow the local community, and create industry-leading hubs with world-class innovation, engineering and manufacturing on-site,” he said.


“Pelligra has a strong track record of projects that deliver jobs and rejuvenate communities. Our intention with Fortek Geelong and Assembly Broadmeadows is the same.


“We are committed to ultimately delivering 4000 to 5000 jobs in the next five to 10 years, with the first manufacturing tenants anticipated to start work on site within a year.”


The developer said that up to 2000 jobs will be initially created across the sites, mainly in technology and new business, and that it will retrofit the existing infrastructure to accommodate manufacturing and “innovative technology” businesses.


The first tenants are expected to be on site within a year.


Ford Australia and New Zealand president and CEO Kay Hart said: “Ford’s Geelong and Broadmeadows sites have played a central role in the history of Australia’s auto industry as centres of technical excellence, and have been part of the fabric of the local communities for generations.


“We are pleased that Pelligra Group will build on Ford’s ongoing engineering and design presence by adding new opportunities for innovation, ideas and business in Geelong and Broadmeadows.”


Pelligra was one of a number of bidders for the Ford sites, which were put on the market in September last year after being stripped of their manufacturing equipment, audited for potential environmental hazards and rehabilitated over a two-year period.


As GoAuto has reported, the property sale closes a major chapter of Australia’s automotive manufacturing history, with Ford joining Holden in unloading its industrial sites where millions of cars and components – including engines – were built over decades.


Holden’s former factory at Fishermans Bend, in Melbourne, has been demolished to make way for a technology park promoted by the Victorian government.


That 37.7ha site, where the first Australian Holden rolled off the production line in 1948, was sold to the government for $135 million in 2016.


Toyota is developing a ‘centre of excellence’ at its former Altona site, with a training centre in operation in the former factory administration building and a number of new facilities under construction, including some in a redevelopment of its former engine plant.


The company also recently announced that it would build a hydrogen production and vehicle refuelling centre at the site to help trigger the development of more hydrogen infrastructure across Australia and pave the way hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) such as its Mirai.

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