Banbury Village leading the Footscray development charge

Away from the high profile yet dawdling urban renewal area that is Joseph Street Precinct, a raft of other Footscray infill development sites are in the process of finding new purpose. With infrastructure such as the new West Footscray Railway Station in place and located only a handful of kilometres from Melbourne's CBD, Footscray is proving to be a popular choice for both developers and residents alike.

One of the 'early adopters' was developer Cedar Woods who pounced upon a sizeable development site fronting Barkly Street, Footscray during 2006. Now known as Banbury Village, the final stage of the development consists of a ROTHELOWMAN-designed apartment complex dubbed Botanica Apartments.

After a mixture of housing types to date, Botancia Apartments represents Cedar Woods' foray into apartment living within Banbury Village. On the back of this I recently spoke with State Manager at Cedar Woods Properties, Nathan Blackburne, regarding Banbury Village and the ongoing role that the development firm plays in urban regeneration.

Laurence Dragomir: Describe the highlights that have made Banbury Village successful.

Nathan Blackburne: The Banbury Village project is a development comprising over 400 dwellings that occupies a 9ha site adjacent to the Whitten Oval and West Footscray Railway Station. The site was once home to the former Olympic Tyre factory which Cedar Woods purchased, rezoned, remediated and then submitted the planning application with council. We first acquired the site in 2006 and commenced development in 2008.

I think the project has been a great success in terms of providing a good example of what is possible with urban renewal on a large scale in inner Melbourne. It' showcases a contemporary architectural style, attractive streetscapes, a variety of housing typologies with the provision of a central park. The project has been met with strong demand and I think that's in part due to the quality of the design outcome that has been achieved.

Sales for the final stage Botanica Apartments have been strong. The project contains a mix of 1 and 2 bedroom apartments and presents the last opportunity to buy into the Banbury Village development.

LD: What was the main factor/drawcard for Cedar Woods getting involved with urban renewal in Footscray, and in particular this site?

NB: Cedar Woods from the outset had our eye on inner Melbourne sites that we felt were ripe for renewal. Footscray was yet to go through regeneration in any meaningful manner and we identified it as a suburb with firstly sites available for renewal, and secondly significant upside in pricing.

Banbury Village along with other developments in the area acted as a catalyst and a lot of families and professionals wanted to be close to the CBD. Hence buyers consider Footscray as a viable option when they realised that they could get a brand new home for a relatively affordable price.

Botanica Apartments at Banbury Village. Image courtesy Cedar Woods

LD: So were they essentially your target market for Banbury Village?

NB: The variety of product means that there was a variety of household structures that were attracted to the project so we have had a mix of singles, couples and young families with probably a greater focus on the family category. This is fairly representative of our expectations and I should say that the project's proximity to the university has attracted a lot of younger people as well.

It was the mix of potential buyer types that made this project attractive for us in the first place.

LD: You touched on the architecture briefly. Is there any particular reason for engaging ROTHELOWMAN for the next stage, Botanica Apartments?

NB: I should mention that dKO were the architects responsible for the majority of the Banbury Village development and ROTHELOWMAN who are well regarded architects have designed the main building and the centrepiece of the development in Botanica Apartments. We wanted to ensure from the beginning that we achieved a quality design outcome that fit in well with the earlier developments and so we chose ROTHELOWMAN because of their reputation within the industry for medium-density apartment developments in inner Melbourne.

We have previously worked with RL on other integrated housing developments and their work for us has been exceptional.

LD: Is there scope for similar projects for Cedar Woods in the future? What's the next project post Banbury?

NB: We see a lot of opportunity for urban renewal projects in Melbourne, in both the inner and middle ring suburbs. In the last couple of years Cedar Woods has acquired two major sites that will deliver similar projects to what has been delivered at Banbury Village.

Firstly we acquired 6.8ha in St Albans next to the train station which the State Government has announced will be subject to approximately $200m in grade separation works and a new station. The project will have a similar mix of houses, townhouses and apartments and that capitalises on the proximity to the redeveloped train station and the retail centre of St Albans.

The St Albans development will be known as St A and will have a very similar impact on St Albans in the same way that Banbury Village has had on its surrounds. St A will seek to deliver a contemporary housing form with some central parkland and all within a few hundred metres of the proposed new station.

We then have the Jackson Green development in Clayton South which is a 6.5ha site that we recently settled on and will accommodate over 250 dwellings which again will comprise a mix of houses, townhouses and apartments. It's the site of the former Sigma Pharmaceuticals adjacent to the Centre and Carinish Road level crossing. It's one of the bigger sites in the area and we're excessively happy to have purchased it.

A part of our Victorian strategy is to acquire inner and middle suburban sites in Melbourne and we're pleased that we have four projects in the portfolio that fit that profile.

Large Footscray infill sites see movement

Kavellaris Urban Design's scheme for Kinnears . Image courtesy KUD

In addition to Banbury Village, The Kinnears site fronting Ballarat Road is also due for development after being dormant for years. Now owned by Guangzhou-based R&F Properties, the four hectare site joins another of the developers land holdings in Fishermans Bend, both of which are capable of housing thousands of people when realised.

Incidentally Kavellaris Urban Design are carrying a suite of renders for a redeveloped Kinnears on their website, one of which is seen above. Whether this is mere coincidence or a precursor to a planning application remains to be seen.

Victoria University Student Accommodation. Image courtesy ADCO

The other current project of note consumes a fraction of what is a sprawling at-grade gravel car park opposite Victoria University's Ballarat Road campus. Valued at $47 million, the 12 level student accommodation project is currently under construction with ADCO building the project.

Containing 504 beds, the project is scheduled to be completed in time for the 2016 academic year.

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