From a forgotten city buried beneath Melbourne to Gumbuya World growing into the country’s largest theme park by area and the once infamous Gatwick Hotel getting a gong – Victoria’s real estate development industry has taken some truly unimaginable twists this year.
There were even project benefits for Bec Judd, horse racing fans and a brand new price record for the Melbourne apartment market in a tower that is years from completion.
But one of the most unexpected developments of the year could have major implications for the state’s homebuyers in 2023 and beyond.
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HIDDEN CITY UNDER MELBOURNE
Nearly 170 years ago, an early Melbourne slum that was prone to flooding near the northeast end of what is now the city’s CBD was filled in and covered over.
After that it was quickly forgotten.
In August this year, the construction team for the development of a Bennetts Lane mixed office building revealed that they had excavated the remains and sent an archaeological excavation team.
Remarkable footprints from some of the city’s earliest buildings have since been uncovered, including bluestone walls, staircases and fireplaces. Dolls, game chips, marbles, bottles and other objects from everyday life have also been excavated.
The financiers of the 20-story development, Perri Projects and the Pellicano Group, opened it to the public before proceeding with construction, but plan to incorporate some of the old finds into the new building that is expected to open in 2025 will be completed.
GUMBUYA WORLD GETS LARGER BY 44.5HA
Queensland has long been known as a hot spot for theme park enthusiasts, but Gumbuya World in Victoria’s Gumbuya World could well have them after the operators bought a 44.5 acre rose farm next door in Garfield.
The $2.6 million purchase catapulted the theme park to a massive 287 ha that dwarfs even Dream World on the Gold Coast.
And a few months later, they celebrated by opening a pair of new roller coasters worth a combined $40 million.
Gumbuya Group CEO Ron Weinzierl said plans for the new acquisition will be discussed with local stakeholders and the government, but the organization was determined to compete with the country’s best attractions.
With the new roller coasters, the theme park has 13 major rides and more than 50 total attractions, including native wildlife and zoos – making it one of the most diverse family destinations in the state.
THE FUTURE TALLEST TOWER SETS A HIGH RECORD
A Southbank skyscraper, slated to be the tallest in Australia, began selling homes early this year.
And it set a record $35 million for Victoria’s highest-ever apartment price in its first weekend of sales.
However, what really stands out is that the top addresses in the 101-story, 356-foot-tall STH BNK By Beulah tower have not yet hit the market.
The lofty sale in April was realized by a sub-penthouse between the 75th and 82nd floors.
A unique green spine along the tower, which will become part of a building complex with a towering luxury hotel, leads to extensive garden plantings along key facade elements.
An aspect that could make its way into the $35 million home, with concept art hinting at Beulah’s openness to installing a private pool and even mature trees in the home.
ARCHITECTURAL GONG FOR THE GATWICK
Once upon a time the Gatwick Hotel in Fitzroy St, St Kilda was the scene of violent crimes as extreme as murder, drug use and all manner of sleaze and ill at ease.
Now it includes an award-winning address, but not one of the homes made for renovation reality TV show The Block.
They missed out on a few ground floor residences that were eventually sold to Kosloff Architects, whose directors decided to make it their own.
In May this year, the efforts of Julian Kosloff and Stephanie Bullock were rewarded when the Australian Institute of Architects shortlisted it for a handful of the state’s top architecture awards.
Their understated redesign that left behind exposed brickwork and copper went a step further in June, bagging an interior architecture award years after the TV show left the infamous hotel.
SEVEN-STAR HOMES FAST TRACK
It has been known for some time that Australia would eventually move from a six-star National House Energy Rating Scheme (NatHERS) minimum standard to a seven-star rating for new home construction
But few in the industry expected a meeting of the country’s construction ministers to make the change mandatory under the National Construction Code starting next year.
The announcement was made at the end of August, with a transition period from May next year.
Victorian construction industry groups currently believe the state will proceed with ending that transition on Oct. 1 next year, despite alarm bells being sounded by top industry groups and some of the nation’s largest builders.
Both the Housing Institute of Australia and Victorian executives at Master Builders have feared the short timeline, while a senior member of Australia’s largest housing company Metricon said they still hoped “common sense would prevail” with more time.
The main concerns relate to supply chains for double glazing and solar panels, as well as developing housing designs that provide better sealing without increased risk of mold growth.
Cost blowouts in the tens of thousands of dollars are also expected to hit people buying or building new homes as well as units as the changes come into play.
However, sustainable building advocates have noted advances in technology as increased demand creates economies of scale, and existing benefits for lower utility bills will help offset costs for buyers.
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Originally published as Unexpected Developments: Hidden City Beneath Melbourne’s CBD, Rollercoasters and Gatwick Gong