Ariel Lopez on progressive apartment design and Helio Apartments

Urban Melbourne recently spoke with Ariel Lopez, Design Leader at Spec Property Developments. Having a decade of experience in both his native Buenos Aires and Miami, Ariel made the move to Melbourne during 2003 and has progressed to lead the design team within the integrated property group.

And it's the integrated nature of Spec where all aspects of development, from design through to construction are handled in-house, which has allowed the Cremorne-based developer to provide a differentiated product within Helio Apartments fronting Flemington Road, North Melbourne.

Ariel explains that the integrated nature of Spec has allowed market research and buyer feedback to reach the design team promptly, thus shaping what living options and design features were to be included within their forthcoming project. In addition the firm has a network of repeat clients built over their 20 year history which they can draw upon for opinions while monitoring current trends.

A genuine kitchen forms part of the Helio design ethos

Consequently Ariel Lopez and his team have provided a handful of living options within Helio to appeal to a spectrum of buyers. The rise of Asian-based investors has not gone unnoticed with Spec seeking to offer prospective investors a departure from the norm. Families, young professional and staff from nearby medical facilities are also expected to feature in the sales, with the latter expected to use their apartments as potential 'crash pads.'

So how does this approach to innovative apartment design manifest itself in this instance? Ariel and his team have included within Helio a healthy number of loft-style apartments which they believe will hit a segment of the market as yet underserved, while also delivering spacious dwellings on an otherwise tight site.

Mini and Maxi lofts have been included within Helio in addition to typical apartments. Maxi lofts which are located over the Helio's top levels see dual bedrooms situated above the open plan living quarters and laundry/power rooms below. These aren't surrogate penthouses, rather a case of placing a product in a unique position given that most developments place loft-style apartments at or near street level.

One particular version of a Helio bathroom

In speaking with Ariel it became evident that the initial concept of a malleable design to suit the location and buyer profile was gradually worked down to address the finer details which they believe give Helio its progressive nature. To that end the majority of dwellings will feature a multi/flexible layout where fixtures and fittings are moveable according to the residents desire.

As Ariel stated, "It's about giving those people who buy in Helio maximum living options."


One developer providing a differentiated product in this case does not constitute an industry-wide shift in thinking, nonetheless it's highly encouraging to see a Spec Property offer greater diversity in their latest project.

Helio's renders show that compact, clever design doesn't need to sacrifice quality useable space. Far too often touted 'high-end' apartments come with impracticably small kitchenettes and barely there bathrooms whereas Helio's kitchens in particular are generous in size and practical in nature.

Ultimately with Helio Spec Property have endeavoured to provide the buyer with greater choice and increased design input both pre and post purchase - and you can't fault that.

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