Philip Hopkins July 18, 2012
The Albert Street site, originally a textile factory.
A recently completed apartment project in Brunswick has highlighted the inner city's transformation from old industrial to new residential - and also the need for developers to be patient.
The sale of the Maxxii Moo cafe completed Deal Corporation's Fabrik residential development - a group of 74 apartments and 20 townhouses - in Albert Street, between Sydney Road and Lygon Street.
The site, when Deal came across it in 2005, was a brown brick textile factory. Deal undertook the development in a joint venture with the site owner, a prominent Melbourne rag trader. The enticement was to provide a decent and affordable place to live for people who wanted to enjoy the charm of the local cafes and shopping strips.
Deal's managing director, David Kobritz, said the company worked very closely with Moreland City Council to produce a thoughtful design that complemented the traditional streetscape while adhering to local planning strategies.
Fabrik falls within the Sydney Road corridor, which has been earmarked for urban renewal and higher density housing as part of the council's Brunswick structure plan.
Mr Kobritz said the long development cycle - it took eight years for Fabrik to be developed from purchase of the site to completion of the project - meant that developers had to be careful about market openings and have a keen eye for opportunities.
The wait paid off; investors who bought apartments and townhouses in Fabrik had them leased in four to five weeks after completion, reflecting underlying demand.
Deal's aim now is to build similar projects, converting old industrial sites, but Mr Kobritz said the market was moving so quickly, and the planning process was so slow.
''Planning permits for many sites are no longer suitable for the current market conditions and development requires long-term anticipation of the market,'' he said.
Deal Corporation specialises in transforming old sites.
It has just started construction on an apartment building, Greville, in the heart of Greville Street, Prahran, on a very tight former car park.
The niche developer also has Aura in Flinders Street under construction (95 per cent of the 275 apartments have sold) on a site that had been passed over many times by other developers.
Its other projects include Arkana, in central Dandenong, and the Era apartment tower in Cremorne, a slice of Richmond forgotten by many.