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Brisbane’s tallest tower heralds a coming of age for the river city

Brisbane's tallest tower heralds a coming of age for the river city

Brisbane is often, perhaps mockingly, referred to as a “big country town” but that label could more appropriately be applied to a single building in the CBD.

Skytower, nearing completion at 222 Margaret Street, is so big it can house the entire population of Longreach.

Skytower soars to the city’s tallest allowable height of 274 metres, with construction set to wrap up by June.

The ear-popping elevator ride to the 90th floor takes almost two minutes, where construction is almost complete on what the developers claim is the highest infinity pool on Earth.

Brisbane's tallest tower heralds a coming of age for river city

Tradies working on the bellwether building spend their lunch hour towering over the city and enjoying the views from a height that dwarfs surrounding skyscrapers and reduces trucks to the size of ants.

As the builders polish off their packed lunches – and if the haze abates – they say they can catch a glimpse of Stradbroke Island’s sand dunes or the Gold Coast’s skyline.

Sydney-based property developer Billbergia, investment company AMP Capital and Hutchinson Builders are behind the project, nicknamed the “Christmas bon-bon”for its three distinct sections.

About 650 apartments in the bottom two thirds are now occupied, while builders work to finish the top section by June.

At the top of each section is a pool, gym and streamroom, but only occupants in the top section will have access to the infinity pool.

Ten years ago, the plan for the Margaret Street site looked very different.

The “Vision Tower” was slated to win the race to be Brisbane’s tallest building – until the global financial crisis and the site was sold off to Billbergia.

Vision was to be a curved, 283-metre skyscraper with an observation deck, 13 floors of commercial space and 376 residential apartments over 72 floors.

Construction on Vision did not pass the excavation stage. The resulting huge hole in the ground sat dormant after developer Austcorp went into receivership in 2009 and famously filled up with water during the Brisbane flood of 2011.

Brisbane City Council gave the green light for Skytower to go ahead in 2014 after years of false starts, and construction kicked off the following year.

The tower has been settled in stages in order for the senior debt to be paid down and to avoid the chaos of 3000 people moving in at the same time.

Billbergia spokesman Rick Graf said the exclusive top eight floors, filled with penthouses, had not yet been released to market but were expected to go on sale by the end of the year.

Brisbane's tallest tower heralds a coming of age for the river city

The largest penthouse was expected to sell for about $8 million, though Mr Graf played coy on the value of the apartment, which spans three levels.

“It is not only a large building, but it is refined, elegant and beautifully finished,” he said.

“When everyone gets a chance to walk through the main foyer later this year, they will be very impressed.”

Mr Graf said about 90 per cent of the 900 apartments already sold were snapped up by Australian buyers, many from south-east Queensland.

The Australian Financial Review reported some owners discounted apartments by up to 10 per cent to make a sale.

Apartment 1316 of Skytower was purchased off the plan for $696,960 in 2015 and sold by owner Hyoung Suk Kwon for $608,880.

While Skytower was the first to reach Brisbane’s height ceiling, it will not be the last.

Five other buildings have received Brisbane City Council approval to reach the aviation-enforced 274-metre limit.

155 Edward Street

Aria Property Group was approved to build an 82-storey gold-coloured tower on the corner of Edward and Elizabeth streets, near St Stephen’s Catholic Cathedral.

300 George Street (The One)

The 82-storey residential tower is part of the $800 million Brisbane Quarter at the old law courts on George Street. The One will sit alongside a 39-storey office building and the 32-storey W Brisbane Hotel.

Brisbane's tallest tower heralds a coming of age the river city

217 George Street (No.1 Brisbane)

No. 1 Brisbane will tower above Brisbane’s busy Queen Street Mall and plans promised the skyscraper to include a bar, retail and a public entertainment space.

240 Margaret Street

This 91-storey skyscraper will neighbour the “Christmas bon-bon” on Margaret Street and will include 783 units.

30 Albert Street

Singapore-based developer Aspial, which also bought the site at 240 Margaret Street, is constructing a “vertical community” with elevated gardens on Albert Street.

The six towers touching the city limits are part of a massive growth across Brisbane’s CBD which are set to transform the Queensland capital by 2022.

Lord mayor Graham Quirk said Brisbane was a growing city with about 50 CBD skyscrapers expected to be built over the coming 20 years, to accommodate the demand for commercial and residential growth.

Brisbane's tallest tower heralds a coming of age for the river city.

“More people are living in the Brisbane CBD than ever before and by 2031 an additional 80,000 employees will be working in the city centre,” he said.

“Brisbane’s CBD skyline has the potential to accommodate buildings of a greater height than the current maximum of 274 metres and it is important that we have a broader discussion about this opportunity, to avoid missing out on economic investment and local jobs.

Cr Quirk said there was still a “clear interest from industry to go higher”.

“With aviation safety as a clear priority, we should still be able to have areas of the city where we might be able to go to 300 metres to provide some flexibility in the medium-term,” he said.

“I want to ensure we protect our city’s strong aviation safety record but I think we should have a sensible conversation around flight paths and future technological changes in aviation that may create the potential for, if not all, some parts of the city to at least be able to go higher.”




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Developer Tests Depth of Albion Apartment Market

Albion Apartment Market

Arden Property Group has lodged plans for an eight-storey apartment tower next door to its Jade apartments development on Burdett Street at Albion.

Euroa is a 76-apartment development on a 2676sq m site, which the developer bought in 2017 for $3 million.

The Altis Architecture-designed tower is on the corner of Burdett Street and Crosby Road, with views over Crosby Park, a proposed Olympic sporting precinct for the 2032 Games.

According to planning documents the development pays homage to the industrial history of the site and the Albion precinct.

“The proposed design has taken a sensitive approach in respecting the industrial heritage significance of the existing site,” the report said.

“The distinct angular roof form and brick palette of the existing industrial building have been reflected in the proposal by incorporating brick feature walls and overclad elements along the street frontage within the planting areas.”

The tower would comprise 19 one-bedroom apartments, 22 two-bedroom apartments, and 35 three-bedroom apartments with a communal rooftop area for residents with a rooftop pool, daybed area, and lounge and views over Brisbane’s evolving skyline.

The architectural design statement said the design outcome would improve street activation, as well as complement and enhance the medium density typology of Albion and leave a “compelling and long-lasting legacy of architectural expression”.

Hoarding has been up on the site for some time, and it comes off the back of Arden Property Group’s four-building 369-apartment Jade development next door.

Arden Property Group’s Jade development won approval in 2014, and was the first major residential development in Albion’s industrial precinct.

Meanwhile former FKP executive director Philip Parker owns a significant stake in the Albion precinct, with storage sheds on Burdett Street and industrial sheds fronting Crosby Road in his portfolio.


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Brisbane’s Office Market Greenlit for Business

Brisbane’s Office Market

Brisbane’s office market continues to shake off the pandemic doldrums with two new commercial towers approved in the CBD and fringe suburbs.

Property owner PGIM and development partner Indema’s plan for a bold adaptive reuse of a 1970s commercial building at 444 Queen Street has won approval.

The bronze 22-storey tower opposite Customs House will be stripped back to its core structure and completely remodelled with a new podium, curtain wall facade and an additional two-storey sculptural canopy.

Indema director Michael Bruderlin said they would be targeting a net zero certification for the building upon completion in the first quarter of 2024.

Bruderlin said Hutchies had been engaged in an early contractor design and construct contract to help de-risk the project and better understand the technical requirements.

The Fender Katsalidis-designed tower follows in the footsteps of another of its commercial adaptive reuse projects in Brisbane, Ashe Morgan’s Midtown, now the headquarters for Rio Tinto.

Bruderlin said retaining and repurposing the existing building is 400 per cent more environmentally friendly. Retaining the existing concrete structure provides a 70 per cent saving in embodied carbon.

The project will rejuvenate a 48-year-old building at the end of life into an A-grade commercial office asset and increase the net leasable area 40 per cent.

Bruderlin said the project would have a quicker turnaround than a normal demolish and build project and it would use clever design initiatives to increase floor plates and create a better value proposition for the asset.

PGIM purchased 444 Queen Street for $54.4 million from the Public Trustee of Queensland and Abacus Property Group in October last year.

Cornerstone has also won approval for a commercial development in the city fringe suburb of Fortitude Valley.

The Bureau Proberts-designed tower will capture the heritage brick character of the Fortitude Valley centre “borrowing from the intent of these buildings but with a stridently different and contemporary expression”, planning documents said.

“This approach is a deliberate counterpoint to the strong and solid brick structures of the immediately adjacent 47 Warner Street and McWhirters buildings.

“Brickwork or masonry is not used as a material in deference to these neighbouring buildings allowing them to become more evident and make a clear statement about the era of their inception.”

The 28-storey commercial tower at 251 Wickham Street features a stepped slanting facade fronting Warner Street, with a four-storey lobby, and an inverted podium.

There will also be a rooftop terrace, 20m pool and open-plan gym in the commercial tower, with retail offerings at the base of the building.

Brisbane’s metropolitan office market vacancy was at 16.3 per cent at the end of March and there were few transactions across the quarter, according to Colliers research.

But yields remained steady, and well above other capital cities, while incentives remained stagnant at 40 per cent.



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‘Best of everything’: approval granted to fantastic farm that will give Coast a brand new flavour

approval granted to fantastic farm, Barns Lane Farm

A new agri-tourism venture is set to showcase the ‘best of everything’ from the region, with a huge Produce Hall trading seven days a week.

Coolum Beach will become home to one of the largest tourism destinations on the Coast, with Sunshine Coast Council giving development approval to Barns Lane Farm.

The farm will be set across 6.8 hectares and centre around a paddock-to-plate experience.

It will showcase Sunshine Coast goods and connect locals and tourists with the hinterland.

The 2000sqm Produce Hall will trade daily and house more than 50 short-term and long-term stallholders.

Barns Lane Farm co-founder and developer Jason Grant said it was a great chance for locals to showcase their wares.

“The Produce Hall will provide a never-before-seen opportunity for local producers, without being subjected to trading restrictions and weather conditions,” he said.

“It will offer multiple connections to the market including selling direct to the public and supplying on-site restaurants and vendors.”

Co-founder Helen Grant said there would be several features at the complex.

“It caters to the many tastes and needs of families and foodies,” she said.

“Other attractions include a distillery, brewery, dining, adventure play areas, animal farms, tours, a performance stage and much more.”

The news has been welcomed by tourism, industry bodies and local stakeholders.

Visit Sunshine Coast CEO Matt Stoeckel said the farm would provide a significant boost to the region.

“There is a huge demand for agri-tourism experiences,” he said.

“The new product will go a long way in cementing our profile as a leading agri-tourism destination.”

Coolum State School Principal Anthony Ryan said the farm would bolster the local community.

“Having this on our doorstep is really exciting,” he said.

“We’ve already implemented Barns Lane Farm themes into our curriculum, and we look forward to furthering partnership opportunities.”

It’s expected that Barns Lane Farm will create more than 170 full-time equivalent jobs across a range of industries and provide vast community and educational opportunities.

Barns Lane co-founder Jonathan Leishman said the region’s agri-business would continue to develop.

“We’re growing and supporting local in every sense of the word, including through our Joint Venture with (venture studio) Josephmark for the Agtech incubator Dirt Lab, which will nurture local innovation,” he said.

Construction will start soon, with the opening set for mid-2023.

Future stages include a 26-room boutique hotel suite and a 150-seat function venue, ideal for rural destination weddings and events.

Barns Lane Farm key features

  • Site size: 6.8 hectares
  • More than 170 full-time equivalent jobs expected
  • Will connect locals and tourists with the hinterland
  • Restaurants and cafes offering paddock-to-plate experience
  • More than three hectares of productive garden beds and orchards
  • 2000sqm seasonal Produce Hall with 50 short and long-term stallholders
  • Agri-tech Incubator, ‘Dirt Lab’
  • Events centre and boutique accommodation
  • Music and arts space
  • Distillery and brewery



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