Docklands on the move?

The following article is the latest newsletter from Maurice Dunlevy | September 10, 2009
Article from: The Australian

BILLIONAIRE property developer Lang Walker is dusting off plans for a Melbourne apartment tower that will form part of a new wave of residential development in the $5.5 billion Docklands.

The apartment building is earmarked for the Batman’s Hill precinct, where Mr Walker’s private Walker Corporation is in an $850 million joint venture with Malaysia’s Kuok Group to build four commercial towers.

The Kuok Group originally intended to build four towers containing more than 1000 residential and serviced apartments, as well as offices and a five-star Shangri-La Hotel in a mixed-use development known as Village Docklands.

However, with only one apartment tower built when Mr Walker took the helm of the project in 2006 — and some of Australia’s largest companies then in the market for new office accommodation — Village Docklands was dropped in favour of an all-commercial development in which four six-star Green Star office buildings were planned.

The rebadged 735 Collins Street project was shortlisted by ANZ and Commonwealth Bank for leased offices.

Newspaper publisher Herald and Weekly Times also shortlisted the complex, but none of the deals eventuated after ANZ decided to build its own Docklands riverfront building within the Lend Lease-controlled Victoria Harbour precinct.

The Commonwealth Bank stayed on at the Commonwealth Property Office Fund’s 385 Bourke Street CBD office tower, as did HWT, which eventually signed again at the Dexus-controlled Southgate complex at Southbank.

For cashed-up Mr Walker, who received about $1bn from the 2006 sale of real estate assets to Mirvac Group, the proposed apartment tower will be one of several major developments undertaken by his Walker Corporation in Melbourne.

With its Kew Cottages residential development already well under way, Walker Corporation is almost certain to buy Amcor’s Alphington Mill site in the city’s inner-northeast for a masterplanned community.

Later this year Walker Corporation will also open the second stage of its $150m Point Cook Town Centre.

The group’s Docklands tower is one of several planned for the once derelict waterfront area, amid state government forecasts that the precinct’s population will almost treble in the next decade.

The population of almost 6500 is tipped to rise to 11,000 by 2015 and 17,000 by 2020.

About 3300 apartments have been built or are under construction since Andrew and Michael Buxton’s MAB Corporation built the first Docklands tower at the NewQuay precinct in 1999.

MAB has since built another four towers, and last week unveiled plans for a $1bn residential project in NewQuay that involves about 1500 new homes.

Mirvac, which plans to launch its sixth residential tower next year, is already building low-rise riverfront homes on the southern side of the Yarra, while Lend Lease has plans for more residential towers at Victoria Harbour.

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