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Hayball's Eugene Chieng discusses the rise of Box Hill

Population and employment growth is propelling Box Hill to become its own mini city. In addition to bustling retail, restaurants, health and education facilities, Box Hill also sports the busiest transport hub in Melbourne’s east with more than 20,000 train commuters a day.

Add the 13,000 jobs on the go and a population set to increase by 26 percent in the next 5 years, and Box Hill is being eyed off by developers and home buyers alike.

With the 117m 845-851 Whitehorse Road receiving a Notice of Decision and Golden Age's purchase of a 7344sqm site at 517-521 Station Street, planning confidence within Box Hill is also on a high. Box Hill's massive growth is also underpinned by the fact that 1,200 units were approved in the suburb during 2015.

Hayball shapes as the dominant architecture practice in the municipality, with 18 projects completed or underway in the City of Whitehorse. Box Hill alone holds 11 for Hayball, including Chloe's 96 apartments and Tao Home with 82 units and a focus on Chinese senior living. These projects continue the firm's approximately 6 year involvement in the area, beginning with the award winning Jade Apartments student accommodation project for Jeff Xu's Golden Age.

Jade Apartments, Box Hill. Image by Rhiannon Slatter

Urban Melbourne met with Hayball director Eugene Chieng at the firm's Sturt Street offices to discuss their involvement in Box Hill, having completed over a dozen projects and with another half a dozen on the books in the 80-100 dwelling range. Chieng identifies a number of factors which have contributed to the growth in Box Hill, breaking down the components that make Box Hill such an emphatic apartment stroghold.

According to Chieng it's a combination of the suburb's culture, and the desire of government at local and state level to turn Box Hill into a thriving activity centre. This is seen in the number of mixed-use developments which are predominantly residential in nature, but with extensive retail at ground level.

However there has also been an increase in the number of developments which have a component of hotel and/or serviced apartments. 

Box Hill has also undoubtedly a hub for Australians of Chinese descent, with the area a magnet for Chinese-backed investment and development.

With so many apartment developments at sales and marketing and with more in the pipeline, Chieng says developments need to offer a point of difference to distinguish themselves in a competitive market. To this end Hayball have designed 82 apartments within 19-21 Poplar Street in Box Hill for developer Sunbright Investment Australia. 

Known as TaoHome, Chieng believes the project has been envisaged as a new way of living; an apartment community that’s designed especially for seniors, with shared facilities like a rooftop walking track, traditional Chinese Wellbeing Centre and Mahjong area also included. The tailoring of TaoHome for a specific demographic also sees Chinese satellite TV, universal power plugs for Chinese appliances and Fotile kitchen rangehoods to accommodate Chinese stir-frying. 

Tao Home communal lounge. Image courtesy Hayball

Culturally it is widely common practice for the Chinese to look after their parents but the younger generation here in Australia generally don't want to live with their parents, so Tao Home has been designed in response to this. TaoHome offers the opportunity for multi-generational living.

The apartments have been designed so that they can be combined or left separated for privacy. The idea is not too dissimilar to  a granny flat. - Eugene Chieng, Director, Hayball

Chieng describes the project as a "very collaborative process" with a client that was very open minded, which was required for a project that was very lateral in its way of thinking. The project still contains traditional apartments but also dual key apartments which include a number of features for elderly care.

The project is 80% sold with completion on the 8-storey building expected in early 2018.

Another Hayball project, Chloe Apartments at 15-17 Irving Street features 96 high end 1 and 2 bedroom apartments over 9 levels for Cubick Property. Chieng says the project has been well received with apartments almost sold out. The project offers views to the adjacent Box Hill Gardens across the road as well as towards the city, and features a 'Rooftop Club' offering residents indoor and outdoor dining, lounges and a fireplace.

Chloe is more 'western' in its approach particularly in light of TaoHome, says Chieng and more investor and owner-occupier driven. Chloe has been tendered and construction is commencing soon.

Chloe, Box Hill. Image courtesy Cubick

Hayball's experience and body of work in Box Hill has seen the firm field several enquiries and approaches by new and return clients for developments in Ringwood. Its appeal lies in the new train station and bus interchange, in addition to Eastland's expansion which includes associated community facilities.

Ringwood much like Box Hill has also been identified as an activity centre where density is appropraite. Hayball are particularly interested in working on multi-generational and highly mixed-use projects in the area says Cheing, building on the office's work on TaoHome - creating more meaningful retirement developments with less high care and greater shared facilities, either via a vertical village model or townhouse typology. 

Urban Melbourne will continue to follow the progress of Box Hill and Ringwood with a keen interest.

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