New lion roars: why Pelligra Group is investing in SA

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By David Sly

Immediate acceptance and flourishing activity at Lionsgate – the repurposed former Holden automotive factory at Elizabeth – signals an unexpected but welcome surge in business confidence for a region that is swiftly re-inventing itself and reviving its fortunes.

Designed to serve as a new industrial hub for Adelaide’s north, the 122ha Lionsgate site has been quickly populated with new businesses, proving itself to be an appropriate place for the timely expansion of existing companies and the foundation for new enterprises coming into South Australia.

Melbourne-based developer Pelligra Group bought the land from Holden during 2018, announcing that it would spend $250 million to redevelop and rename the site as Lionsgate Business Park. When the deal was settled in January, it signalled that SA carries significant potential for major investors from outside this state.

Ross Pelligra, chairman of Pelligra Group, says he was initially attracted by the size of the Lionsgate project – being one of the largest commercial land assets under one title in Australia.

A bird’s eye view of the former Holden site, now known as Lionsgate, at the end of 2017.

He is also thrilled that the site redevelopment is providing a springboard for new industrial opportunities to emerge in SA, at a critical time when industry is being revolutionised through rapid developments in technology and skills.

“Manufacturing is not like it was 20 years ago. The future is linked to the next level of urban renewal and advanced technologies,” says Ross.

“I believe that what is happening at Lionsgate represents the big way forward, providing a centre for up-skilled manufacturing and machinery – and the workforce in SA is ready for this leap forward.

“I truly believe that the leading edge SA business has is its people, and they are ready to embrace the next generation of manufacturing possibilities. The quick uptake of new manufacturing tenants at Lionsgate proves this.”

German battery giant sonnen and Business SA Exporter of the Year Levett Engineering are among the first wave of companies that have moved into the Lionsgate site, with the addition of more local and international manufacturing and technology tenants to be announced during March.

German battery giant sonnen’s Australian HQ is now based at Lionsgate, pictured is manufacturing manager Adam Williams. Photo by JKTP.

“Acceptance has been far beyond my expectation,” says David Reid, senior director with CBRE, the real estate agency responsible for signing up Lionsgate tenants.

“Industrial expansion on this scale represents a huge success for the local economy and the beginning of a new era for the northern suburbs. I think the new road network, with the completion of the Northern Connector, is showing that this location is very accessible, affordable and highly functional.”

Pelligra is a family company, headed by Ross and his brother Paul Pelligra (CEO), with more than six decades of experience in building and construction, and has made a solid commitment to support the rebuilding of manufacturing.

It’s a strong endorsement, as the world has seen many large industrial cities plunged into an economic tailspin after the closure of automotive manufacturing plants – Detroit in the US being the most shocking example. Ross views the departure of Holden from Elizabeth and the immediate opportunities presented by the Lionsgate site very differently.

“We came to Elizabeth with a positive attitude,” he says. “We didn’t want to just fill up this space with warehousing – we wanted to invest and be supportive of growth industries, and that is the emerging manufacturing industries that are embracing new technologies.”

The Elizabeth plant has transitioned from automotive manufacturing to an advanced manufacturing hub and business park.

Lionsgate will eventually combine a mixed-use retail precinct, café and museum, a central park named Lion Park, and a suite of precincts for engineering and construction, automotive companies, food, beverage and pharmaceuticals companies, and education, medical and recreational businesses.

“I don’t see us completing Lionsgate for at least another five to 10 years, because it will need to keep changing to meet 21st century manufacturing needs,” says Ross. “I can see that we will be pulling down some existing buildings to construct new buildings that incorporate innovative and intelligent elements in their design that best suit modern machinery and tenants.

“I talk about the future vision in this way because Pelligra will be here for the long haul. I believe the steps we have taken at Lionsgate will encourage other developers to look at opportunities in SA and adopt the same positive outlook.”

The Lionsgate development also signals the start of continuing investment in SA by the Pelligra Group, which is building a new complex to support Sanjeev Gupta’s Whyalla rejuvenation, including $45 million in a four-star ocean-view hotel.

Ross Pelligro says the company is only weeks away from finalising plans with council, then will start the selection process for architects and discussions with major hotel brands as operator tenants.

“I believe our willingness to invest will stimulate more investment to come into SA,” he adds.

Industry in focus: Trade and Investment

Throughout the months of January and February, the state’s trade and investment industry will be explored as part of I Choose SA.

South Australia is in a prime position for trade and investment opportunities as we have a 24-hour connection to international markets and a prime reputation for our premium products and services.  Read more trade and investment stories here.

Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.

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