23/04/2008 - 22:00

Apartment demand sparks Match

23/04/2008 - 22:00

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Perth’s burgeoning office market may be encouraging developers to favour commercial stock over residential, but boutique player Match is finding strong demand for its apartments.

Apartment demand sparks Match

Perth’s burgeoning office market may be encouraging developers to favour commercial stock over residential, but boutique player Match is finding strong demand for its apartments.

During the past seven years, the company has built seven apartment complexes, has a further five under way, and is about to embark on four new projects, including one in each of Yanchep and Fremantle.

Operating from its new offices in the former WD & HO Wills warehouse on Milligan Street, one of its biggest renewal projects to date, Match has found a niche in converting heritage buildings to apartments, or building art deco-inspired designs in established suburbs.

Managing director Lloyd Clark, who worked for property agency Jones Lang Wootton before starting Match, said he founded the company to combine his passion for architecture and design with an opening in the local residential market. 

“In 2001, we were really starting to see the beginning of true inner-city apartment living,” he said.

“There were a lot of major operators in the market, but no-one was focusing on the boutique end.”

Match’s first project was a block of 16 luxury apartments in West Perth, which was sold out by the time construction began.

Many of the original owner-occupiers have gone on to invest in the group’s subsequent projects, in Mount Lawley, Maylands, Northbridge, Guildford and Inglewood, Mr Clark said.

He said the company’s strategy was to target suburbs that could support residential living on a high street strip.

“We were really drawn to a lot of town centre locations, because of the vibrancy and amenity they offered,” Mr Clark told WA Business News.

“Mount Lawley in particular was an area that was unique in Perth, and there were very few signs of development along Beaufort Street.”

While the business has grown significantly, with $350 million in projects under way, Mr Clark said there were a number of lean years early on.

“Like a lot of young businesses, the initial years were certainly tough, and with property development, you also face long lead times,” he said.

Most of Match’s projects have been funded individually through wholesale syndicates targeting sophisticated investors. 

However, the company recently launched a managed investment scheme for retail investors, to widen its funding pool.

“There were a number of investors known to us that were keen to participate but didn’t necessarily meet the (sophisticated investor) criteria,” Mr Clark said.

Match has also set up a partnership with property group Hawaiian, specifically to develop government-owned sites under statutory land holdings.

Two tenders have been won to date, in Northbridge and South Beach, with the latter waiting for development approval from the City of Fremantle.

Mr Clark said both companies felt the arrangement would make them better placed to win contracts from the East Perth Redevelopment Authority and LandCorp.

He said Match was hoping to establish joint ventures with other funding partners in the near future.

The group is also planning to branch out of its core apartment business into the commercial office market.

Fremantle is the initial target, with plans to convert heritage buildings to boutique offices.

It follows the company’s acquisition of the Fort Knox site on Queen Victoria Street, where its apartments project is to commence once plans are approved by council.

“We’re very focused on Fremantle at the moment. We see it as an area that is under-developed,” Mr Clark said. 

“We’re hoping Fort Knox will be the catalyst for a greater activation in the area, because it’s the gateway to Fremantle.”

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