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MAB continues to “do good stuff”

29 May 2019

MAB continues to “do good stuff” Image

By Shane Scanlan

The Docklands neighbourhood continues to grow with residents moving into the newly-finished Elm and Stone apartment building in NewQuay.

According to developer MAB’s residential general manager David Allt-Graham, at the beginning of May some 85 per cent of the complex’s 144 apartments had settled.

Mr Allt-Graham told Docklands News he expected five or six defaults, which he said was a good result, considering that 135 apartments were sold off-the-plan.

He said the standout performer in the complex were the 31 one- and two-bedroom lofts, which were all snapped up off-the-plan.

“They’ve been an absolute best-seller, which is great in a tough market,” Mr David Allt-Graham said.

He said the lofts offered MAB an exciting new category and featured strongly in MAB’s new, adjacent residential offering, Escala.

“The challenge with the lofts was to get the design to work to a price, but what it gives you is more potential customers.”

“There’s no point having a whole lot of great designs that sit at the top-end. People might love them, but they’ve got to be able to afford them too.”

Mr Allt-Graham said Elm and Stone apartments ranged from $350,000 to $800,000. He said about 60 per cent had been sold to investors but that loft buyers were strongly owner-occupiers.

One-bedroom loft prices sit between one- and two-bedroom apartments.

“Someone who buys this pays a bit more of a premium, but not a two-bedroom premium,” he said of a $530,000 example, with a car park.

“They’re a bit harder to build because there’s a lot to think about in all the details,” Mr Allt-Graham said. “The compromise is lower head height over the mezzanine.” The mezzanines offered flexible uses, including casual areas, study or TV lounge.

He said lofts felt like “little houses” and offered good sound separation between neighbouring bedrooms

The design of Elm and Stone is a refreshing departure from the “standard” podium and tower offering. It’s actually two towers, with the Quest NewQuay serviced apartments occupying the other half. With hardly a straight line in sight, the towers nestle around each other with a respectful and interesting space between them.

Elm and Stone’s outdoor pool and barbecue area is designed for maximum shelter and useability. Its gym is also impressive and its entrance foyer is “non-traditional” while remaining functional.

MAB set out to do things differently with Elm and Stone. While some buyers have baulked at exposed concrete ceilings and finishes, Mr Allt-Graham said they gave the complex a “Fitzroy” feel.

“Concrete ceilings and concrete finishes are a bit of a vibe,” he said. “And our idea was to juxtapose that with a lot of greenery – something a bit more soulful. I guess we were a bit tired of all the plasterboard and straight finishes which don’t really offer much to get excited about.”

“We’re trying to do things of consistent quality, but aren’t the same,” he said.

One of the new ideas is built-in irrigated planter boxes on all balconies. Mr Allt-Graham explained that, should a plant die, the building offered a “pot replacement” program.

With NewQuay retail more broadly on life-support, Mr Allt-Graham said MAB was adding very little retail in its newest towers.

“In each building there might be one or two spaces. So that should give what’s there a chance to find a tenant and recover,” he said.

Mr Allt-Graham remains confident that, when completed, NewQuay will have the right balance of residential, commercial and retail.

“The only real solution is to get critical mass down here and it’s not just residential, it’s hotels too and commercial. It’s commercial that really makes a difference to the retail.”

“The only meaningful contribution we can make is to get more people here,” he said. “When these areas are fully built out, the balance will be there. In the long-run it will be right. It will be a good mix.”

MAB has Escala to build between Elm and Stone and H1 and will also revisit the vacant land across the other side of Docklands Drive. That will leave the final task of completing the western end near Ron Barassi Snr Park.

It plans to build “affordable” on the Docklands Drive side and high-end luxury on the waterside.

Mr Allt-Graham said MAB remained confident, despite a soft market for residential apartments.

“You’ve just got to stay the course. If you do good stuff, you’ll be OK,” he said.

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