04/03/2020 - 11:48

Community key for Willing

04/03/2020 - 11:48

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Former champion track cyclist Tim Willing is bringing a distinctly community-oriented approach to property development.

Tim Willing says retaining ownership of a coffee shop such as The Deli on Central facilitates dialogue that will help shape his future projects. Photo: Gabriel Oliveira

Former champion track cyclist Tim Willing is bringing a distinctly community-oriented approach to property development.

Retaining ownership of a coffee shop in an apartment building is hardly a typical approach among property developers.

But for Willing Group founder Tim Willing it’s a strategy helping create a boutique development formula that not only produces sales results, but enhances a local area.

Alongside Willing Property, Mr Willing has established Willing Coffee, a side business that operates two cafes, both of which roast their own beans – Terrace House in Guildford and The Deli on Central in Mount Lawley.

Mr Willing told Business News the idea to own cafes originated from his passion for coffee, but also had the added benefit of tapping in to what the local community wanted from a property development.

“While we are trying to deliver something that people choose to live in, people don’t feel any affinity with developers, unfortunately,” Mr Willing said.

“Having the coffee shop allows you to have a different type of dialogue with people; you’re not seen as just a developer.

“What’s been interesting for me with coffee is it’s evolved from a passion to then get this connection with people, and gives us a better understanding of how people want to live.”

The Deli on Central is part of Willing Group’s latest project, a boutique Mount Lawley apartment development recently approved by planning authorities.

As well as 15 terrace homes and loft apartments, the Clifton & Central project will incorporate a range of retail tenancies to be offered as optional extras for owner-occupiers.

Mr Willing said buyers interested in the commercial tenancies would be given the option to purchase an apartment and connect it with the shopfront.

“What I’m interested in is how to attract people who want to own and operate their own business,” he said.

“These are not about trying to sell them to an investor and then they are leased out, because from an investment perspective they aren’t going to be attractive.

“But for an owner-operator, a 50 square metre business that could be connected with upstairs as a residence gives people a two-play opportunity.

“They can choose to operate a business downstairs, live upstairs, and they can leverage it to secure debt funding more simply than if it was purely a commercial asset.”

Mr Willing said he was in negotiations with a florist, a yoga/pilates studio and a hairdresser to take up the apartment/shopfront opportunity, while The Deli on Central would also be expanded to incorporate a wine bar.

“There is quite a demand for businesses that stand outside of the norm,” he said.

“People say ‘Gee, what about Beaufort Street, there’s a lot of vacant shops’ and so on, but it’s very hard to stand out on a very long road of strip retail.

“Even if you know what you are looking for, it’s hard to find.

“Whereas with a string of five shops where you can say you are on the corner of a prominent road, it is easy to locate and [for] people to know exactly where you are.”

From a cycling perspective, Mr Willing said he saw strong parallels between being an innovative developer and a professional athlete.

“To be a professional athlete there is no direct path to where you want to go, it is really about pursuing something you’ve got as an inner belief and it either works or it doesn’t,” he said.

“On a bike you’ve got all conditions, whether it’s rain, wind, or heat or hills, or whatever else, you want to persevere.

“Property is about having a belief and there is quite a bit of risk to be taken.

“You have got to have an appetite for that and you need to persevere as well.

“We’ve got a planning regime that needs a lot of perseverance and a lot of engagement, and in the sales environment you’ve got to be doing something that is a bit different to your competitors, and you have to believe that you’ve got an edge over your competitors.

“Typically developers think about the building first, the physicality of it, but the reality is what’s most important is how people live.

“That’s where the opportunity is right now, how people live, how they choose to live, the connection they want to have with others.”

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