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Reflecting on what’s important
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Doing development differently

04 Feb 2016

Doing development differently Image

There’s a new player in town and he’s shaking up Docklands’ development scene.

Mohan Du, 28, is managing director and founder of Capital Alliance and he’s not afraid to do things differently.

“I think that development, not just in Docklands, but in Melbourne generally over the last 20 years has been quite vanilla,” Mr Du said. “It’s been quite bland.”

Starting his career in real estate, Mr Du sold off-the-plan apartments across Melbourne, including in Docklands.

“When we started selling these properties I realised all of them were very similar, there wasn’t anything spectacular,” he said.

“Sure they were in different locations, whether it be in Southbank, South Yarra, the CBD or Docklands but, putting location aside, the products were very similar.”

“I just thought there had to be something else out there.”

So, at just 25, he founded Capital Alliance, with the aim of doing development a bit differently.

“The disadvantage we have, which in some ways is also an advantage, is that we’re a very young start-up in a mature industry,” Mr Du said.

“Where the advantage sits is, because we are young, we have a tenacity to do things and our outlook is fresh. I think that sets us apart as a business within the property industry.”

“We’re one of the smallest but we’re making some splashes.”

One of those splashes is M Docklands, a mixed-use building featuring Docklands’ first five-star hotel, along with residential apartments, which is set to officially open this month.

The other is a second mixed-use hotel and residential building on Waterfront Way, to be located above Harbour Town, which is currently awaiting planning approval.

Capital Alliance recently signed a deal with Marriott for the hotel component of the tower. See our story on page 16.

The company has also purchased a site on Pearl River Road, is an investor and partner in an apartment development at Kings Domain in Southbank and has built a boutique apartment development in Box Hill.

Evident in his approach in Docklands, mixed-use developments are something Mr Du is passionate about, but only when they are what he calls “true mixed-use”.

“If you look at places like Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, even New York, the lifestyle amenities they have there are very different to ours.”

“Their buildings are all very unique, there’s not many solely residential towers, and a lot of it is mixed-use.”

“Over here there isn’t really any true mixed-use, although people say it does exist because of serviced apartments.”

Mr Du said he personally wasn’t a fan of serviced apartments and had experienced their impact in the Southbank apartment building where he currently lives.

“For us, when we got into Docklands, we wanted to have a point of difference and do a proper and true mixed-use development,” Mr Du said.

“We will have separate lift cores so the residents have their own private lift and the hotel has it’s own lift so there’s no crossover.”

Mr Du said the buildings would also have hotel amenities open to both residents and guests.

“If you’re living in a building that’s been segregated already, what I would define as a true mixed-use development, the residences should have access to hotel amenities like housekeeping, guest services, valet parking, concierge. You have that overseas but you don’t have that here.”

“We don’t want to create just another building,” Mr Du said.” “We want it to stand apart.”

With one Docklands project almost complete, another in the pipeline and a third planned, it’s clear Capital Alliance and Mr Du see a lot of potential in Docklands.

“I think Docklands will become one of the most vibrant parts of the state,” Mr Du said.

“I think the Docklands I knew when I started working here is different to the Docklands we know today and, in another three years time, it will be different again,” Mr Du said. “There’s constant growth and improvement.”

“If we could glimpse into the future, in 30 years time it will be very different.”

As for his own company, Mr Du said he was excited by what lay ahead.

“Moving forward, my career’s so young and the company’s so young, it really excites me where we could end up.”

“Our main goal is to make sure everything we do is a win-win situation for everyone. For ourselves, our stakeholders and for the people who live in these buildings in the future.”

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