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Jimmy Thompson (left) and Daniel-Paul Filippi say their commitment to collaboration has helped navigate a tough apartments market. Photo: Gabriel Oliveira.

Innovation at heart of Stirling, MJA team

When apartment developer Stirling Capital and architecture group MJA Studio first collaborated on the South Cott apartments in 2004, neither company would have likely predicted just how far the working relationship would go.

Fast forward to 2019, and the companies have worked together to design and develop seven projects over the past eight years, collectively valued at around $400 million.

And many of the projects, such as Stirling Capital’s recently completed flagship Cirque in Mount Pleasant, have come at a point in the property cycle when many developers across the city have struggled to consistently get projects under way.

Other recent major projects delivered by the pair include towers on the outskirts of the city; the $90 million The Boulevard student accommodation development and the $80 million 137-apartment Verdant.

MJA Studio director James Thompson told Business News the firms shared many synergies, not the least of which was placing innovation and sustainable design at the forefront of multi-residential development.

Mr Thompson said the success of the collaboration also came down to both firms’ commitments to tailoring products to suit future purchasers.

“What Stirling Capital has always been really smart about is understanding what the market is,” he said.

“Every project is so different, it always needs to be a bespoke design approach, and also in terms of what you supply in amenity.

“It’s a bit about breaking the perception in people from Perth’s minds about what apartment living is.

“It’s gone from living in old flats, to living in cookie cutter apartments, now people just consider them as vertical homes.

“Our approach to that is a sense of generosity in space, and a sense of generosity on the volume of what’s given to the apartment purchaser.

“That’s the greatest thing about what we do, is actually creating homes for people to live in.”

With residents shifting into the first stage of the $230 million Cirque, Stirling Capital and MJA Studio are gearing up to deliver their next round of projects, highlighted by the Treehouse in Jolimont, a 50-apartment boutique development.

Stirling Capital marketing and sales director Daniel-Paul Filippi said the firms would again focus on creating a desirable community at Treehouse.

“With each project, we have sought to make it best in class for that area,” Mr Filippi said.

“We don’t have a mould or a template – I’ve seen it a lot in our competitors and former companies that I’ve worked with, they have a template.

“We don’t have that template, so I think that’s allowed us to do something different on each site, and that gives MJA the ability to do what architects do well and design something really beautiful without constraint.”

Mr Filippi said that approach had been crucial in Perth’s sometimes patchy apartment market.

“The Perth market has become fairly sophisticated in the past two or three years in particular because competition has driven developers to innovate and produce better quality products,” he said.

“We are all dealing with a predominantly owner-occupier market, so the days of putting up a 70 square metre two-by-two square box in a concrete tilt-up building are over.

“There are still those sorts of projects around and they are the ones that are struggling, because the market has moved on from there.

“Even the investor market, even though it’s a small market, they are saying the same thing, because they know that a quality tenant wants the exact same thing an owner-occupier does.

“Better buildings have lower electricity costs, better amenity, better quality of living space, and that’s what’s driving that market as well.”

Mr Thompson said along with the intense competition, there had also been significant change in recent years in buyer expectation, particularly in regards to environmentally sustainable design.

“Previously we would have to fight really hard to get some solar PV on the roof and things like that, but now it’s a given, people will ask, where is the PV?” he said.

“Before you would really need to work with developers to get these things integrated, but over the years, the projects we have been doing together, they have just become part of the first principles of the design process.”

Mr Thompson said at Cirque the companies had been conscious their building would face strong competition from some of Perth’s biggest apartment developers, with the Canning Bridge precinct one of the city’s most active development hubs.

“We were always really conscious of setting a really high standard or benchmark for the precinct,” he said.

“We really understood that we were going to be a 20-storey building within a whole bunch of single residential, so it had to be a beautiful thing from across the river, from the bridge and coming across Canning Highway.”

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Architects

6th↓Oldfield Knott ArchitectsNFP
7th↓Cameron Chisholm Nicol15
8th-MJA Studio15
9th↑T&Z Architects10
10th↑Carabiner10
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