Crown Group Revives $500m West End Project

Sydney-based developer Crown Group has returned to the drawing board for the design of its $500 million apartment project in Brisbane’s West End, enlisting Japanese architect Kengo Kuma and and local firm Plus Architecture.

The contentious development, which has been paused since mid-2019, will be completely redesigned after initial plans for an FJMT-designed scheme were scrapped.

The approved scheme for 455 apartments across the 1.25-hectare site at 117 Victoria Street was met with strong backlash from the local community, arguing the approved development didn’t have enough supporting infrastructure.

Crown will now push forward with the redesign, planning for fewer but larger apartments across a greater gross floor area in response to local market conditions.

Crown Group chief executive Iwan Sunito said the decision to approach Kuma had been driven by the architect’s star power, with the project set to be his maiden design in Queensland.

Crown Group
▲ Crown Group and Kuma collaborated previously for the Mastery by Crown Group, at Waterloo in Sydney. Image: Kengo Kuma and Iwan Sunito

“The West End development has the potential to become the largest residential development that [Kuma] has designed to date, in terms of its expansive floor area.

“In two to three years’ time, there will be a huge demand for new homes in Australia that will not be met by supply because of the lag in construction that is happening now, particularly in areas of need such as inner-city areas.

“All this, coupled with the low cost of borrowing due to record low interest rates, are expected to drive new apartment prices up,” Sunito said.

Revised designs are expected to be lodged with Brisbane City Council in mid-2021 with off-the-plan sales starting next year.

Plans are expected to feature 450 high-end apartments as well as a pool, barbecue and poolside facilities, gym and community room.

The developer also has plans to break ground on its first apartment projects in Melbourne and Los Angeles, after reporting a rise in both profit and off-the-plan sales across a difficult 2020 financial year.

The group saw a 6 per cent lift in pre-tax profit to $35.6 million, selling $131.5 million worth of new apartments, up from $92.7 million the previous year.

Crown Group
▲ Crown Group originally submitted its application for a FJMT-designed scheme in January 2018 after picking up the site for $35 million. Image: FJMT

The group said the improved result had been helped by settlements at its $395 million Waterfall by Crown Group in Waterloo during the peak of lockdown.

It was also supported by $6.5 million in sales, over a two-week period, at its twin-tower Artis development at 175 Sturt Street in Melbourne’s Southbank.

The project saw a limited release, virtually via Zoom, to the Indonesian market in December during the countries’ most severe lockdown period.

“It shows that there is a market among Indonesian buyers, particularly for Melbourne, and that buyers are looking to a future beyond the pandemic,” Sunito said.

Crown Group said it will focus this year on sales at its Sydney projects, the $575 million Mastery at Waterloo and the $1 billion Eastlakes Live project in the inner south.

The developer is also working towards launching its proposed Los Angeles project, a $650 million apartment and hotel tower in the city’s Downtown district, which is pending entitlement approval in late 2021 by the City of Los Angeles.


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