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Demand For Industrial Property Drives Building Approvals North


trial building approval values grew by more than 15 per cent in the year to February 2018. Photo: Supplied

Unprecedented demand for warehouses and a renaissance in some areas of manufacturing have driven industrial building approvals through the roof.

The increasing reliance on online shopping from traditional retailers, as well as the rise of online-only e-tailers like Amazon, have pushed up demand for distribution centres, especially in locations linked to key motorways and transport hubs.

Many investors are looking north to Brisbane for better returns, as Sydney becomes more land-constrained and yields continue to tighten.

More than $535 million worth of approvals were granted nationally for industrial developments in February alone, the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics data, released on Wednesday, shows. That figure had surged by more than 100 per cent from the previous month.

Total industrial property, including factories and warehouses, recorded an uplift in approval values of more than 15 per cent in the 12 months to February 2018 – the strongest growth across the commercial asset classes.

Leda Holdings has paid $36 million for a 1.85-hectare industrial site in Sydney’s Banksmeadow. Photo: Supplied

AMP Capital chief economist Shane Oliver said the strong interest in the industrial property sector “comes back to e-commerce activity”.

“I think rents are rising very strongly so that’s encouraged a pick-up in approvals for industrial complexes or warehouses.”

While most industrial construction approvals were for warehouses, it was factories which saw the most dramatic uplift in approval values, with year-on-year growth of 117 per cent – with a 300-per-cent surge from January to February.

Colliers International’s head of industrial research Sass J-Baleh said the Australian food manufacturing and cold storage sectors have and will continue to see strong growth in the next few years, thanks to expansion in the food sector.

“It is important to note that there are many sub-sectors within the overall manufacturing industry and that although historic headline figures have shown an unfavourable trend in manufacturing, there are definitely sub-sectors that have demonstrated recent growth,” she said.

This aligns with the Australian Industry Group’s latest Australian Performance of Manufacturing Index, which hit a record high of 63.1. A PMI above 50 indicates an expansion in overall manufacturing activity.

The value of all non-residential building approvals grew by 4.4 per cent in the 12 months to February 2018 – to more than $3.58 billion worth of approvals. It climbed back by 14.8 per cent in February from the previous month.

Master Builders Australia’s Matthew Pollock expects non-residential building activity to grow by 14.6 per cent in 2018, with an estimated $41.5 billion worth of projects to be completed.

“(The upswing in approvals) confirms the strongest outlook that commercial construction has enjoyed in years and that the long awaited upturn in the sector is underway,” he said.

Brisbane “riding upswing” market

An industrial site at 14-26 Commercial Road, Kingsgrove is tipped to fetch about $15 million. Photo: Supplied

Research released by Cushman and Wakefield on Thursday reveals that the volume of investment in industrial property has increased nationally by 38 per cent to $982 million in the three months to March 31.

Cushman and Wakefield’s head of research Dominic Brown said that Brisbane had been the strong performer in the past few quarters, where more investors were looking at the recovery in that market.

The combined three-year investment volume for Brisbane – at $1.1 billion – is at its highest level since the third quarter of 2015.

“In Queensland, it was still in negative territory until about two years ago and it’s only in the past couple of years that it’s returned to positive economic growth,” he said.

“If you think of where pricing is at in the three cities, investors are now looking towards Brisbane as they see it as a growth opportunity, whereas pricing in Melbourne and Sydney have moved forward quite a long way over the past couple of years.”

While Mr Brown’s outlook for Brisbane remains positive, he noted that discrepancies between vendor and buyer price expectations could limit future investment activity.

Sydney has recorded the lowest three-year investment volume of $869 million among the three eastern seaboard capital cities because of limited stock and declining returns.

The highest result was achieved by Melbourne, where $1.2 billion worth of deals went through in the past three years. But the Cushman and Wakefield report noted that transactions in that market “has been largely flat over the past 18 months… due to lack of available stock”.

Despite this, capital values of vacant land in Melbourne shot up 36 per cent year-on-year.


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Hutchinson Builders takes over Cbus Brisbane tower that broke Probuild

Hutchinson Builders takes over Cbus Brisbane tower

Hutchinson Builders will take over the completion of Cbus Property’s troubled residential development in Brisbane, one of most problematic projects for failed construction contractor Probuild.

The awarding of the contract was widely expected, as family-owned Hutchies, the largest Queensland-based builder, was seen as the only contractor capable of taking on the 47-level project.

“Since commencing preliminary works on site three weeks ago, Cbus Property, together with Hutchinson Builders, continues to finalise subcontractor negotiations and prepare a revised construction programme,” Cbus Property chief executive Adrian Pozzo said on Monday.

“Once finalised, we will provide an update to purchasers with a more definitive completion timeline.”

Chairman Scott Hutchinson told The Australian Financial Review in early March he was “quietly hoping” to pick up the job and the announcement makes it second time lucky for the company that came second to Probuild in the 2017 race for the project.

Probuild had tendered a price for the project that was $40 million less than Hutchies’ price and a year faster to build, Mr Hutchinson said. Probuild has not confirmed those numbers, nor has Cbus Property.

But the project turned into such a drag for the business that Probuild parent WBHO said last year – long before putting the company into administration in February this year – that the project had racked up a $48 million loss.

Sydney-based Roberts Co has acquired Probuild’s Victorian projects and Built has taken over Dexus’ 25 Martin Place project in Sydney. The future of Greaton’s Ribbon project at Sydney’s Darling Harbour is still not clear.

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Tech Entrepreneur Disrupts With Shop-Top Development Proposal


The flames on the fryers at the Palm Beach Fish & Chips Shop, a roadside institution on Sydney’s northern beaches, flickered off months ago.

But tech rich-lister Robin Khuda is still feeling the heat.

The demolition crew has come and gone, levelling the site where locals along with movie stars, rock stars and sporting heroes had once placed their salt-sprinkled orders.

A development battle line—with a pristine view over Pittwater—has been drawn.

On one side is the wealthy founder of data centre operator AirTrunk who wants to build a shop-top residential development adjoining the landmark heritage-listed Barrenjoey House.

On the other side is a local community—much of it also cashed-up—fighting to protect the peninsula’s village vibe.

Khuda, who has been on a $120-million-plus property acquisition spree over the past couple of years, purchased the 1140sq m Barrenjoey Road site through his investment entity Asia Digital Investments for $6 million.

Since then, he has been seeking to amend the site’s existing development approval granted in 2014 for four apartments and three retail tenancies.

Last year, an application for modification of the development consent was lodged with the Northern Beaches Council for a three-level design with six apartments above retail.

But following community backlash and council feedback deeming it “unacceptable and inconsistent with the seaside village character” of the area it was withdrawn.


▲ The former Palm Beach Fish & Chips Shop on Barrenjoey Road, which has been demolished to make way for the controversial shop-top residential development.

Design firm Rob Mills Architecture went back to the drawing board to address the concerns regarding the proposal’s architectural style, appearance and relationship to the adjoining heritage listed Barrenjoey House.

Subsequently, a new application for an alternative shop-top concept—to be constructed at an estimated cost of about $13.6 million—was recently filed.

It comprises a three-storey building with pitched rather than flat roof forms that according to the documents is “both sympathetic to its context and contemporary in its use of materials and forms in response to local climate and the seaside village character”.

The new scheme includes a publicly-accessible plaza and “deep and generously proportioned” colonnade providing weather-protected outdoor seating adjacent to the commercial tenancies on the ground level.

It is topped with five residences—one two-bedroom and two three-bedroom apartments on the first level, and two four-bedroom apartments on the second level.


▲ Artist’s impression of the previous development proposal for the Barrenjoey Road site which was deemed “unacceptable and inconsistent with the seaside village character” of the area.

The new application concedes the upper-level roof eaves exceed the site’s 8.5m height blanket by as much as 2.99m in some parts and a height variation request has been submitted.

“We consider that such request is well-founded in that it facilitates the development of the site in a manner which provides far superior urban design, heritage conservation, residential amenity and landscape outcomes compared to the development approved,” the planning report said.

A submitted heritage impact statement noted the proposed new building was “similar in height and scale to Barrenjoey House” and although contemporary in character it “demonstrates respect for the key forms, architectural proportions and materiality” of its 99-year-old neighbour.

It concluded the proposed works would have “no impact on the ability to understand the significance of the nearby heritage listed items” and would support “the ongoing significance of the area as a neighbourhood precinct”.

Numerous submissions objecting to the new scheme already have been lodged by the local community.

They describe the proposal as a monstrosity, imposing, grossly out of character and, according to the owner of a property behind the site, even higher than the previous proposal.

“It is a bulky building that not only flaunts height restrictions but is of an ugly, pretentious post-modern design; a complete anachronism,” one of the objections said. “With heavy neo-classical porticos and and a pitched federation roofline it is not at all sympathetic to the site and the lifestyle of the area.”

But one of the submissions begged to differ describing it as “a beautiful asset to the already beautiful Palm Beach area”.

“We can’t keep living in the past and not let these beautifully designed buildings be built,” it added.

Khuda—who has amassed a $600 million fortune as a data centre entrepreneur—in recent times has been satisfying a newfound penchant for high-end property investment and development.

His property splurge has included a total of three holdings in Palm Beach for $25 million as well as a coastal retreat in Lennox Head for $7 million, an apartment in Crown Resorts’ Barangaroo tower for $10.7 million and a Mosman mansion for close to $20 million.

The AirTrunk chief executive has also acquired two old apartment blocks at Manly’s North Steyne for $18.2 million, which are earmarked for another luxury apartment development.


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Charter Hall raising $75m property fund

Charter Hall

Charter Hall’s hit the fund-raising trail to raise $75 million for its second fund in the Wholesale Property Series (WPS).

The WPS is a fund-of-fund targeted at high-net-worth types that invest in a mixed bag of Charter Hall’s commercial property assets.

The firm raised its first iteration two years ago, bringing in $278 million and returning 19.1 per cent on an annualised basis since then.

It began mailing out detailed information memorandums for WPS2 (official name: Charter Hall Wholesale Property Series No.2) this month with an initial $75 million target.

But the fundraising period would run for two years, making it likely the end size would match its older siblings’.

The fund is closed-ended with a seven-year term, with realisations to start from the fourth year. That’s a long lock-in commitment and potential investors were reminded of the rewards of patience; the fund is targeting total returns of 8 to 9 per cent with quarterly distributions.

Office and industrials (including logistics) were top of the list for allocations at 20 to 50 per cent of the portfolio each, followed by smaller allocations to long-WALE (10 to 40 per cent), social infrastructure (up to 30 per cent) and listed REITs (up to 15 per cent).

Charter Hall’s divvying up the initial $75 million across five of its funds, where the WPS2 would be either the institutional pooled investor or an institutional partner depending on the fund structure.

That’s 210 properties with 98.6 per cent occupancy and Telstra, David Jones, Bunnings, Macquarie and Aldi among the largest tenants, potential investors were told.

Charter Hall’s grown from $500 million in 2004 to $79.5 billion in group fund under management at December end. The wholesale segment has been a big part of its growth and accounted for $38.5 billion of the $61.3 billion it has in property.


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