Caitlin Fitzsimmons Online editor

Caitlin covers social media, marketing and technology and is BRW's social media editor. She has worked as a journalist in Sydney, London and San Francisco, writing for titles including The Guardian and The Australian Financial Review.

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Compulsory acquisition looms over John Winning’s grand designs

Published 26 August 2013 07:41, Updated 27 August 2013 07:09

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Compulsory acquisition looms over John Winning’s grand designs

Sydney businessman John Winning has spent seven years and more than $5 million converting an old warehouse in Surry Hills into his dream home. Now, months from completion, the dream could become a nightmare with two words: compulsory acquisition.

A Transport NSW employee told Winning, the group CEO of family-owned retail company Winning Group and the founder of Appliances Online, the bad news about a week ago.

Michael Caton as Darryl Kerrigan in The Castle.

“I’m in complete shock,” Winning says. “I feel like the Kerrigans out of The Castle. This is my project, my dream home and I’ve invested so much time and money and effort and thought into building it and now right as it’s nearing completion, they want to acquire it.”

Winning’s property lies on one of the proposed routes for the light-rail project from the city to Kingsford in south-eastern Sydney. He has been told it is the preferred option out of three and he suspects the early signs are not good for him.

John WinningNic Walker

“The guy that was advising me said ‘they’re reading off a script but I can read the body language and you’ve got a lot of work to do. They’re definitely going to take your house’,” Winning says.

The 29-year-old moves in influential circles - he counts broadcaster Alan Jones among his friends – and he won’t give up without a fight. However, the news is so recent that he is still researching his options and figuring out who to talk to.

The light-rail project will involve the demolition of the Olivia Gardens apartment complex. After Olivia Gardens there are three potential routes. One of them runs through Winning’s house, as it is thought this provides the best way to cross the Eastern Distributor. The other two options go through the car park next to The Langton Centre outpatient clinic, which is owned by the state government.

I don’t have a wife or kids or even a girlfriend, and what I make, I like to spend and enjoy and share with my friends.

Winning says he is happy to live next to a train line but does not understand why they would take his or anyone else’s house when there are other options available.

Construction has been under way for three years but he has been working on the project for around seven years, because it took a while to find the site.

He is planning to move into his new apartment in October and is camping out at his parent’s waterfront mansion in Watsons Bay in the mean time.

The Surry Hills building project is more than just a place to live for Winning. In a video he describes it as his Grand Designs project.

“I always wanted to do a warehouse conversion and to find the right, unique place that’s close enough to the city was very difficult,” he says. “It’s a dream I’ve been working on through my whole 20s and I’ve basically poured every dollar I have into the place.”

Winning says the house is “amazing” and will include an indoor pool, an indoor entertaining area, a double-storey indoor garden, a cinema, four bedrooms and places for his friends to visit from overseas. The centrepiece is the lavish bedroom.

“We’re spending hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars on building this custom bedroom, which I understand has never been done before in the way that we’re doing it,” he says. “It’s made completely out of fibreglass and it’s its own space; it’s a sculpture that has been designed by Peter Ireland from Allen Jack + Cottier and it’s sound-proofed.

“The architect and interior designer, after I went through a scoping project of who I wanted to use, they both hugged me and said ‘please let me be involved in this project, we want to make this happen’ so it’s a really interesting project.”

Winning had been looking forward to entertaining both friends and business colleagues in his new home but this is all up in the air now.

I’m in complete shock. I feel like the Kerrigans out of The Castle.

“I was planning a very good housewarming party. I don’t have a wife or kids or even a girlfriend, and what I make, I like to spend and enjoy and share with my friends,” he says.

“I’m planning to do a lot of nice dinner parties and holding private functions and have corporate people around and have them in my own home.”

This is Winning’s second property – he bought a two-bedroom apartment in Bellevue Hill for about half a million dollars some years back.

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