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The foundations of a great residential project

The foundations of a great residential project
The foundations of a great residential project

In today’s market what makes the great foundations for an exceptional residential development?

While there are an array of possible ways to benchmark and answer this question that may well satisfy planners, developers, marketers and financiers, we are also faced with another question, "what makes a great project for the buyers".

Buyers face lots of choices and while they can easily access mountains of research and commentary, I still think that when we take a project to market we still need to answer this question. Easily. Even more so when we are talking about selling off the plan, where a focus on the elements of a project with great foundations, is a sound way to approach the market. 

Market conditions are always changing; today’s projects that sell-out in just hours, days or a few weeks, might not do so under tomorrow’s market circumstances.

There are some key aspects to regard as our key project fundamentals, many of which are interconnected.

Always from both the developers and buyers viewpoint are: Infill locations, the use of existing infrastructure, environmental credentials and sustainability, access to open space, design, equally the overall and apartment design, communications, the appeal of mixed use developments, the liveability of the development and finally sales appeal.

While I am not suggesting this is an exhaustive list, I do think that by looking at each element, we will then start to understand how they help form the foundation of great projects and why buyers frequently use such key attributes to inform their purchase.

Infill locations attract both positive and negative feedback, but these are locations are essential to helping plan any major city and they are the mainstay of most medium density development and (once the dust settles) are generally seen as a more desirable way to plan and deliver new projects. They not only create new homes but they usually are very good at connecting new neighbourhoods and so they are very appealing to buyers.

The use of existing infrastructure is naturally linked with the appetite for infill locations and local infrastructure will include rail links, schools, shops and parks, in fact any easy to access facilities. Buyers are quick to identify the importance of these facilities and it has to be acknowledged that in some locations new developments add user pressure, which is an area that both government and developers always need to plan and be mindful of.

However the value gained from the use of existing infrastructure and where necessary improving facilities is easily illustrated because the costs can be massive. Some recent figures I saw from the USA make the point. There a modest extension to street curbing was quoted at US$78,000, a new set of traffic lights US$280,000 while a mile of new subway would cost US$1 billion, so the use of existing facilities via infill locations looks like an obvious choice.

Environmental credentials is a major topic, in some cases it’s a marketing must have and is made up of many varied parts from the familiar, like the use of solar and water recycling to the less common such as on-site energy generation. We also need to include the provision of new green space and access to open space, including passive open space like golf courses. However again here we can have a clash between the needs of already established communities with the desires of new residents, but for the developer this can be a great foundation element.

Design is another constantly evolving foundation element; it’s very topical and one of the items that is close to the heart of any buyer. Design covers a wide strategy from the masterplan of a development and its impact on the local environment into areas like apartment size, clever features, cross ventilation, variety and innovation, attention to detail; down to such everyday items like the number and size of parking bays and storage.

Communications is both a simple and complex area. Every buyer today expects to open the door of their new apartment, walk in, switch on their PC, laptop, tablet or whatever device they have and be instantly connect to the world.

Mixed use developments on the development star ratings offer some challenges, usually at the planning level, but they also offer great opportunity and generally they help create a more connected local community because they bring new variety that can be used by everyone, not just the new residents. In creating a dynamic mixed-use development variety is important because it can be exciting and a wonderful ongoing benefit to the entire community.

Liveability really brings together all of the aspects already outlined. There is no single pointer, it’s a combination of cultural, economic and environmental issues, and it also includes diversity and population demographics as well as civic and planning values. But it might also be seen as a sense of place, in reality a place where people want to live.

Sales appeal is the final point but from a marketing perspective, it’s the litmus test. Any project needs to be a commercial winner and the aim is to inform the marketing message, but to also help buyers in their own minds answer what really makes a great development.

Peter Chittenden

Peter Chittenden

Peter Chittenden is managing director for residential of Colliers International.

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Off the plan Peter Chittenden

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