Docklands ‘‘should rebound’’ says Property Council

Docklands ‘‘should rebound’’ says Property Council

By David Schout

A “strong-performing” commercial property sector in Docklands “should rebound” from the difficulties posed by COVID-19, the Property Council of Australia’s Victorian director has said.

Cressida Wall said that while the exact nature of future challenges were yet to be seen, Docklands was well positioned to bounce back.

Docklands News last month reported the significant impact of the pandemic on the residential property market, in particular on short-stay operators.

One local real estate director described the current climate as “100 per cent completely unprecedented” as the vacancy rate shot up to 9.1 per cent in April - three times the level at the same time in 2019 according to SQM Research.

But Ms Wall said that it was a different case with the commercial sector.

“All businesses, including commercial leasing, are facing challenges as a result of COVID-19 but we have strong fundamentals in Melbourne, including Docklands,” Ms Wall said.

“Docklands has experienced several years of strong performance. While the challenges ahead are yet to be seen, as a precinct, Docklands has a strong value proposition - it is located close to a transport hub, boasts retail and social amenity and historically has been well-priced in comparison to other markets such as Sydney.”

Prior to the COVID-19 shutdowns, Melbourne’s commercial property market had the lowest vacancy rate in Australia, and the lowest in the Victorian history according to the Property Council.

Former Labor adviser Wall, who replaced Lord Mayor Sally Capp as the Property Council’s Victorian director in 2018, said as people began to return to work, it was incumbent on owners to ensure this was done properly.

“Many commercial landlords have gone above and beyond to support and maintain their tenants through this crisis. Effort now turns to how to commercial office owners sup- port tenants and their workers as they plan for a safe return to work.”

Docklands Chamber of Commerce (DCC) president Johanna Maxwell said prior to COVID-19, commercial space in Docklands had shown strong growth, and said they too expected a rebound.

“Our cafes and restaurants have been impacted negatively during this time and with workers continuing to work from home where possible, the reduced foot traffic will continue to impact [the area],” she said.

“We continue to see a re-emerging of business from within our precinct. Our business leaders have been creative and we are confident that this will continue.”

Mrs Maxwell echoed sentiments about working together in the coming months.

“There are still tough times ahead for business and community while we return to the new normal. We will continue to encourage land-lords to work with their tenants by supporting them through this time. City of Melbourne have also continued to support via rental relief, fees and the grants that have been made available. Planning for a safe return to work for all workers is a high priority and while we are early in this process, it is clear that social distancing is going to be part of the long term future.”

The Property Council’s office market report is due to be released in August.

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