Long before the shadow cast by Asian-backed property developers over the Melbourne apartment market, local developers were delivering projects in a altogether typical fashion. For a variety of limiting factors it's near on impossible for the vast majority of local property developers to bust into the apartment market with grandiose projects in the vicinity of 1000 dwellings, as has been the case recently.
Rather the slow and steady increase of developments in terms of scale and complexity was the norm. In talking to Little Projects' Managing Director Michael Fox recently, the discussion veered into how the now considerably sized property player began in the Melbourne market.
"Why, we started with townhouses like everyone else" was the reply from the head of a firm that has a rash of apartments currently in planning. This in turn prompted Urban Melbourne to sift through the considerable list of Melbourne-based property players via our Project Database in an attempt to identify the next small to medium sized apartment developer ready to step up to the next level.
We suspect that next firm is Milbex. From conception in 2004 with a dual townhouse project in Elwood, a handful of lower density projects were undertaken until their breakout project titled Essence was completed during late 2013. Now a year later the developer has taken the leap to the next level with three apartment projects of note.
Moorabbin's Bayside Tower has commenced construction; after a brisk sales campaign, builder Hamilton & Marino has advanced the build to the lower basement level. Located in Richmond, Estelle is still before City of Yarra although a decision is expected shortly given the length of time it has been at planning.
With an active website seeking registrations of interest, Estelle's 91 apartments look set to join Bayside's 128 dwellings in due course.
Next in line is a project dubbed 39W. Currently under assessment with City of Port Phillip, 37-43 Park Street South Melbourne spans 12 levels and seeks to hold 120 apartments, ground level retail space and office space through the podium.
The existing 39 Park Street low-rise commercial complex is available for short term lease indicating demolition may not be all that far away.
Milbex look to have settled upon a successful formula as their developments increase in frequency. Elenberg Fraser's experience with the developer at Essence has led to the prolific architecture firm designing Bayside, Estelle and 39W.
Add Hamilton & Marino builders into the mix for both Essence and Bayside and the trend of familiarity emerges. Not specific to Milbex, this practice is prevalent with other developers who maintain multiple projects on the go at any given time, thus streamlining the development process via a ongoing working relationship.
From the casual observers perspective Milbex is on an upward trajectory, and may well soon enough sit in the same bracket as Caydon or Pace Development Group within the Melbourne development scene. As for who will be the next small-scale developer to make the jump to the next level, there's no shortage of local developers vying for the distinction!