2014: A Record Year For Brisbane Apartment Approvals


 Image Supplied by Ellivo Architects

Angus Green
Senior Town Planner
PLACE Design Group
(07) 3852 3922

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WebsiteIt is no secret that the Brisbane residential apartment market has been flourishing over the past year, with the Brisbane City Council receiving a record number of development applications in 2013 that could result in more than 20,000 apartments for the inner-city areas.

This strong growth has continued into 2014, with a record number of apartments being built in the city and more development applications lodged with Council in the 2013/14 financial year than ever before.

This growth has been driven by numerous factors including foreign and interstate investment, an ageing demographic profile looking to downsize, population growth and infrastructure delivery.

Say Hello to Brisbane’s New City Plan: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back.

On the 30 June 2014 the BCC adopted the Brisbane City Plan 2014, which superseded the City Plan 2000. The new planning scheme was welcomed with mixed emotions by the development industry, with many considering it to be one step forward and two steps back.

Key changes such as the removal of the antiquated plot ratio approach to the multiple residential development to a form-based approach were welcomed, however, the planning scheme is not without its challenges for developers.

Planning controls such as rigorous building separation and building height transition controls seeking to protect the surrounding residential amenity have been introduced.

So, What's This All Mean?
Our initial thoughts of these new controls are that many projects would have to push beyond the acceptable outcomes and seek a performance outcome agreeable to both the BCC and the developer.

This increases the planning risk for developers and may increase the requirement to procure development sites subject to a successful development application opposed to a standard due diligence period. This would have additional cost implications for the developer, which would affect the affordability of the end product. We see this impacting the smaller scale end of the market, such as the 10-20 pack of residential units, more than projects of a medium to large scale.

The medium to large development sites in the current inner-city growth areas such as Fortitude Valley, Milton, West End and Woolloongabba are expected to fall within Neighbourhood Planning areas prepared by the BCC in recent years and more or less rolled into the new planning scheme, with minimal amendments other than administrative changes.

We believe the development rights for these larger development sites remain relatively unchanged.


What About The Small End of Town?
The drafting of the new planning scheme created new Low-medium Residential zones and increased the ‘as of right’ heights in some areas.

We believe this points to a desire on the part of Council, at least in theory, for the smaller development sites to play a large roll in delivering the infill housing targets.

Whilst we have yet to see any early data to confirm this one way or another, our anecdotal evidence from clients and architects working in these areas, is that the number of projects of this type and form has certainly dropped off after the adoption of the new planning scheme.


What About The Hot Spots?

Fortitude Valley

is one of Brisbane’s inner-city suburbs thriving with numerous large scale residential and mixed use projects planned or under construction.

However, the growth across the suburb has not been uniform and has been focused towards the Newstead end of the suburb, away from the CBD with projects like Newstead Towers, DoubleOne 3, LaVida and Broadway on Ann.

The Valley’s heart and retail centre saw little re-development until recently when this pattern began to shift with significant projects from interstate developers such as Gurner’s FV, Twin Oceans Group’s 188 Wickham Street and Urban Construct Group’s 40-100 Barry Parade beginning to surface.

We expect this shift in growth has been assisted by increased market confidence in the area spurred by improvements to the civic spaces through the Brunswick Street Mall Revitalisation Project and the burgeoning laneway network.

The Brunswick Street Mall has been an important, low cost catalyst project by the BCC.

An estimated $5 million spend by the BCC has generated an anticipated $500 million of new projects within a 400m radius of the Mall, when no projects of any note had occurred in this precinct in the previous 5 years. We expect to see the number of transactions and development applications lodged around this Mall increase as the grade of retail tenancies and urban environment begins to improve as a result.

The Valley Metro Train Station and adjacent Brunswick Street West remains a key precinct that has been unable to evolve and gentrify in recent years and consequently boasts a number of adverse social issues. It is our view that the development potential of the Valley Heart area will not be fully realised until this precinct is remedied as it forms an important transport gateway to the suburb and one of the few reminders of the Valley’s gritty past.

The station is not only important to the area immediately around it, but to the wider Valley and Newstead area, with it being the only heavy rail station servicing the locality. It seems counter logical then, that such an important asset and catalyst piece of infrastructure can sit in private ownership, particularly since the owner at least until now has proven unwilling for whatever reason to redevelop this site and station arrival hall.

We believe the precinct would benefit greatly from investment in the urban design experience to enhance the sense of arrival in and around the Valley Metro, which is currently channelled past poor quality retail tenancies and a host of anti-social behaviour.

A Major Catalyst?
It has been reported that LaSalle Investment Management is in negotiations with the current landowner, Lend Lease, to purchase the property. If this proves to be true, we can only hope that any new owner recognises the catalytic opportunity this site plays and actively looks to develop and redevelop within this current cycle.

We fear that should this not be the case, the Valley may be held to ransom by this underperforming asset, which negatively influences the arrival experience of future commercial and residential occupants of the area.

PLACE Design Group are pleased to have been involved in a number of the key projects mentioned and look forward to playing a role in the continued evolution of the area.


Angus is an experienced town planner with a particular expertise in urban regeneration approvals in the City, South Brisbane and fringe markets. Angus’ extensive statutory planning experience has seen him facilitate planning approvals for complex residential, commercial and industrial developments across Queensland.

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