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Editions

The developer’s dilemma

30 Apr 2010

Docklands developers have a dilemma.  Do they embrace the community or not?

Are they going to be more profitable working with the community or going their own way and continually finding prospects to sell their new apartments to?

Repeat and referral business is the best, most cost-effective way to grow any business.  Ten years ago, Docklands developers didn’t have this option.  But now, at the half-way point, they have a choice.

One of the things that attracted the developers to Docklands in the first place was the State Government’s promise that they could operate outside of normal planning practices which typically involve community consultation.  No doubt, this notion still resonates with old-school developer thinking.

But will this approach ultimately deliver maximum profits?

A case in point is the Lend Lease’s Serrata proposal in Bourke St, Victoria Harbour.

Lend Lease’s formerly happy customers who purchased properties in the up-market Mosaic and Montage buildings were appalled to learn that the developer was redefining its previously-stated position that the block next door was reserved for low-rise community use.

The residents only found this out because Lend Lease marketers approached them directly as previous customers with a “special offer”.

The explanation goes along these lines:  “Oh, but when we said that, it was true.”  “That reflects our master plan at that time.”  “But the State Government wants more urban consolidation, so they’ve encouraged us to revise our master plan and we’re now proposing a 15-storey tower on the land.”

Lend Lease has consistently refused to reveal its new master plan or disclose Serrata.  And yet, it can successfully apply for Government permission to build based on this secret plan.  (And what this says about our Government is another story again!)

Lend Lease can define this Government permission to build without the bother of publicly revealing its plans as a victory.  But it can’t have it both ways.  It can’t hope for community support if it takes the secret deals route.

Sure they can still sell in China and other countries.  But they do need local sales.  And the world is getting smaller every day.  Google the term “serrata victoria harbour” and our recent story on resident anger comes up just under Vivas Lend Lease’s “register your interest”.

The principles involved in this case are not restricted to Victoria Harbour.  All precinct developers should take note.  The journey to the “build out” point in 2020 could be harmonious or it could be the longest 10 years imaginable.

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