Western Australian property developer Dick Lester is preparing to diversify into retirement village and health care developments, as well as planning one of the largest residential subdivisions in the South West.
Mr Lester, the chief executive of private investment and development company Lester Group Ltd, views the sector as vital to the long-term health of the residential communities his group is creating.
Among sites earmarked for integrated retirement village and health care facilities are its Kingston Estate in Australind, which has potential for 200 villas, and large residential subdivisions in Caversham, Busselton and Margaret River.
“It’s a growing trend in the community that we’re all living longer. We get repaired and put back on the road and that’s affecting our health services,” Mr Lester told WA Business News.
“The communities we’ve developed have evolved and an opportunity, which was not there before, has arisen. It’s a question of what the needs of the communities are now.”
Lester Group is yet to decide whether it will create a new management business for the villages or offer high-care services.
Mr Lester formed the Lester Group of development companies in 1995, following the sale of his billion dollar unlisted funds management business, Growth Equities Mutual Ltd (GEM) to Lend Lease in 1994.
Mr Lester said the group had always kept a regional focus, with estates in Rockingham, Dawesville, Margaret River and Exmouth to its name, but had delved into a number of high-end apartment projects around Perth, including The Moorings complex in North Fremantle.
By far the largest project Lester Group has undertaken is Ambergate – a 4,500 lot estate planned between the suburbs of Provence and Vasse Newtown in Busselton.
With a structure plan now approved by the state government, Mr Lester said the first lots were expected at Ambergate by early 2010.
In the meantime, he said, the company would be seeking to buy more land there.
Other projects in the pipeline include a 1,400-lot residential development in Margaret River, canal and dry-lot estates in Exmouth, a mixed-use development in Pemberton, and industrial developments at Perth Airport.
Mr Lester said the proposed Margaret River communities, including Rapids Landing, would benefit from the grey-water and recycled water systems it was designing with help from the Shire of Augusta Margaret River and the Water Corporation.
“Each house will have a water tank and we will be plumbing the whole subdivision so that grey water can be used for public open spaces…subsequent stages might well take that to private gardens,” he said.
Lester Group development director Andrew Lang said that, after learning of the group’s sustainable approach to development in Margaret River, a Pemberton landowner approached the company regarding a 140-lot subdivision and tourism facility.
“We’re currently going through planning, but there will likely be a mix of lots and a tourist site with a restaurant. Many of the lots will be affordable,” Mr Lang said.
Mr Lester said the group would seek a mix of funding to bankroll future projects and would invite the public to invest in a $50 million prospectus in the first half of 2008.