[+] Five Sydney Developers to Watch in 2021

They may not have a big profile—in fact some of them enjoy flying under the radar—but they are emerging as big players in the most expensive and unyielding property market in Australia.

The Sydney market is dominated by super-charged property prices, but it is ripe with opportunities for developers looking to make their mark on the cityscape.

Project marketing firm Laver Residential Projects director Dennis Vertzayias said Laver worked with emerging developers because they intimately knew what their buyers’ wanted and delivered it to a high standard.

“We love to work with developers that do a lot of homework on the global benchmarks for design, quality finish and imaginative floorplans … they think outside the square and have a passion for consistently raising the bar,” he said.

But it’s not just about doing your homework, according to Vertzayias, who said good business acumen was crucial to winning financial backing.

Here are five standout on-the-rise developers who have carved a niche for themselves in the overheated Sydney market.

Central Element

▲ Central Element directors Wayne Chivas and Shane Smollen

What was your first project?

“La Joya in Terrigal was the project that really got us off the ground. It was a great experiment and kick started our obsession of using sustainable materials wherever we can.”

How hard was it to get funding and get the project off the ground?

“Our typical funding model has always been through debt financing with our equity, through senior lenders and non-bank lenders.

“What has been our focal point is finding the right funding partner—one that understands our vision and shares the same values.”

What have you got in the pipeline right now?

“This year feels like such a pinnacle year for us. Not only do we have more prime developments in the pipeline than ever, but our portfolio strategy is also widening from residential, mixed-use and seniors living into hospitality and entertainment ventures.

“We are particularly proud of our development in Paddington where we are creating the first 25 Hours Hotel in Sydney.

“Our biggest and most premium residential project to date is now in planning following our recent acquisition of the Hyde Park Inn in Elizabeth Street and the adjacent office building in Castlereagh Street.

“A mixed-use development in the heart of Neutral Bay, that commences construction at the end of the year is also a noteworthy project for us.”

▲ Olympia Theatre in Paddington (top), The Balmoral Collection in Mosman (bottom left) and Mera in Cammeray (bottom right).

What sets you apart from other developers in this space?

“We are still privately owned for one. I really believe that we think beyond just bricks and mortar. We are authentically focused on how we can enhance a neighbourhood—pay our respects to its past and create something that will seamlessly enrich the local community.

“More than anything though I think it’s the willingness from our team to express artistic flair and be visionaries.”

How hard is it to break into the Sydney market—what are some of the challenges you have faced in this market?

“It must take time to break into any sophisticated market—to build that trust and respect. [We have] decades of expertise in different and complementary sectors.

“Wayne has such a strong financial background and had success in businesses in a range of industries, I’ve been fortunate to have had extensive experience in real estate over 36 years, including the growth of a market leading network.

“We’ve been around long enough to understand market cycles and see all challenge as opportunities without panic.

“A unique challenge has obviously been the global pandemic. Despite the sales launch of The Anden in Coogee and our four luxury residences in Balmoral commencing the week prior to the Sydney Covid-19 lockdown, both are now sold out.

“It was a unique time where we really had to back ourselves and push on with innovative strategies and belief in a great product. The results spoke for themselves—with record sales despite a predicted downturn.”

How big is your organisation? How many dwellings have you built over what time period?

“At the moment we are a team of 18 but we are growing.
We’ve delivered over 450 apartments over the past 14 years.”

Dare Property Group

Danny Avidan

What was your first project?

“My first project was a block of 15 apartments in Vaucluse, Sydney in 2014.”

How hard was it to get funding and get the project off the ground?

“The Carlton Vaucluse was funded by CBA Bank and the equity was fully funded by me. Pre-sales were hard as I was not an expert with the process.

“It was the only project that did not involve the amazing CBRE Project sales headed by Ben Stewart. Otherwise, it was successful.”

What have you got in the pipeline right now?

“Currently, we have four projects, two in Melbourne and two in Sydney. We are looking to add another one in each city in the next couple of months.”

▲ Kalypso in Tamarama (top), Wave in Tamarama (bottom left) and The Foveaux in Surry Hills.

What sets you apart from other developers in this space?

“I think it is understanding and appraising each area we build in great detail. Defining who the purchasers are and what their ultimate criteria consists of, which includes design amenities and costs.

“I then apply my marketing and design skills that I have learned through the 20 years I ran my fashion business—and then create a dream with the assistance of the best and most appropriate, skilled team.”

How hard is it to break into the Sydney market, what are some of the unique challenges you have faced in this market?

“It is difficult to be able to purchase iconic sites in Sydney that work financially. It is very challenging to obtain council approvals in Sydney. The rest is manageable.”

How big is your organisation? How many dwellings have you built over what time period?

“My organisation is unique as we have minimal in-house staff and outsource all services regularly from very specialised teams and companies.”

EG Funds

▲ EG funds development director Grant Flannigan

What was your first project?

“Although EG is in its 21st year, it was not until 2010 that EG Development Management was established and developed The Canterbury, centred around a magnificent old oak tree and extensive landscaping in the elegant and historic eastern suburbs of Melbourne. The Canterbury produced 58 homes including townhouses, maisonettes and apartments.”

How hard was it to get funding and get the project off the ground?

“EG is in a unique position that we create our own development sites on behalf of our investors. We have over 20 years' experience in rezoning and a 10-year track record in delivering quality development.

“We bring in JV equity partners following the rezoning to share in the development upside. We have no difficulty in obtaining Senior Debt financing from an Australian or international bank due to our long track record.

“We have not needed non-bank lenders as we have a very disciplined approach to development that is aligned with what the major banks are looking for in a borrower.”

What have you got in the pipeline right now?

“EG has grown rapidly since its early origins and now has a $3.9-billion development pipeline.

“Included in this pipeline is a $120-million industrial and commercial business park, Northern Beaches Business Park, in Cromer, Sydney.

“The 7ha site represents one of the largest employment renewal opportunities in the Northern Beaches with potential to bring up to 600 jobs to the local area.

“Also in the pipeline is a coming master planned community in North Rocks, in the Hills district of Sydney. We are constantly in the process of rezoning land from our land bank for future development opportunities across Australia.”

▲ Bosco in Five Dock (top), The Flour Mill of Summer Hill (bottom left) and Tempo in Drummoyne (bottom right).

What sets you apart from other developers in this space?

“EG maintains a lifelong commitment to remain involved with each of our developments.

“We foster a deep connection with our communities and build in good thinking to generate both outstanding returns and lasting positive social impact to create a powerful legacy for all.

“As co-founders and partners of the B.I.G. Foundation, we also understand the value in activating the 'third space' to encourage social connections and support the community as they champion wellbeing initiatives.”

How hard is it to break into the Sydney market, what are some of the unique challenges you have faced in this market?

“It is extraordinarily difficult to break into the Sydney development market.

“Even though we have a unique focus on value creation through rezoning of sites and then delivering these projects, we are very disciplined in our approach. Sydney is very constrained with supply—that is—lack of supply is practically the sole reason for issues with affordability.

“The rezoning process requires a high level of skill, a consultative approach and patience. When we overlay our build in good philosophy to our approach, we are able to have highly constructive discussions with the community and the authorities.

“Securing rezonings in Sydney goes a long way to increasing supply and therefore alleviating affordability. Our biggest challenge is to remain focused and disciplined in our belief about what is able to be achieved.”

How big is your organisation? How many dwellings have you built over what time period?

“EG has more than 100 team members across rapidly growing offices in Sydney and the Philippines.

“We currently have a land bank that will deliver approximately 2000 dwellings to be developed across Australia. We deliver approximately 200 dwellings per year and, importantly, we continue to be involved in the communities that have been created though the B.I.G. Foundation and their vision to help these residents live happier, healthier and kinder lives.”


▲ WINIM managing directors Justin Kuiters and Josh Leahy

What was your first project?

“Our first project prior to establishing WINIM was a luxury residential project completed in Balgowlah Heights in 2010.

“The WINIM brand was launched shortly thereafter, and we did our first advisory project, master planning a 60,000sq m mixed-use shopping centre in Darwin.

“WINIM Funds Management’s first project was a 58-unit residential development in Lane Cove in 2014, and we have been steadily growing our team and diversifying our expertise and capabilities ever since.”

How hard was it to get funding and get the project off the ground?

“After the GFC, financing was difficult while sites were abundant. Now financing is reasonably easy but finding and securing the right sites is more challenging. Generally, we primarily develop with equity and senior debt facilities on market banking terms. All our projects standalone financially.”

What have you got in the pipeline right now?

“We have multiple projects in our Property Advisory business. In our WINIM Funds Management business, we have active projects in various stages of development including one nearing practical completion, three under construction, one in marketing, two in development application phase and two in design.”

▲ Otto in Cremorne (top), The Terraces in Willoughby (bottom left) and Longhouse in St Ives (bottom right).

What sets you apart from other developers in this space?

“We’re all about creating the heritage of the future. We take pride in delivering projects in our own backyard, and in delivering the kinds of homes that we would be happy to live in ourselves.

“The quality of our developments is a result of the fact that every project receives the attention of a dedicated, experienced team and the fact that every member of our team treats each project as our own home, investment or asset.

“Our leadership are directly hands-on from end-to-end to ensure we deliver projects that achieve optimum outcomes for our clients, investors and customers.

“We believe strongly in being involved in a project even after it is complete, and as locals we have a real sense of ownership over our projects even after they have sold. We believe in smart, efficient space utilisation, design excellence and innovation in construction.”

How hard is it to break into the Sydney market, what are some of the unique challenges you have faced in this market?

“The agility of a small team allows us to adapt to change and market shifts quickly. In terms of projects, we intentionally work on opportunities in different sectors and in different states as a service provider.

“To sustain growth in the Sydney market in recent years, we focused our fund management team on one of our passions, which is premium blue chip residential homes in our own backyard. We doubled down on this and invested a lot of time with people and researching the market before securing the right sites. This strategy has proven to be very successful.

“The first couple of developments are always the hardest when establishing the brand, but once you’ve proven that you can deliver to a certain high standard of quality, people start to recognise you and support you as customers and investors.

“The process is always challenging, and the Sydney market is competitive and intelligent. So, with research, trusted relationships, innovation, passion and hard work we are continuing to grow.”

How big is your organisation? How many dwellings have you built over what time period?

“We currently have a talented team of approximately 20 staff. To date, WINIM Fund Management have delivered over 250 homes. The Advisory business has worked on more than 200 projects.”


▲ Fiducia development director Marie Doyle and chief executive Ben Doyle

What was your first project?

“My first development was a project in Cremorne, a block of four Art Deco apartments. Back then we were like the original TV show The Block and I was rolling paint on walls till two in the morning while I was pregnant with our second daughter.

“We would buy the blocks of apartments in bulk, renovate them, strata and then sell them down.

“If you ask my parents though they would say I was a developer at age 10 when we renovated a granny flat in our house in New Zealand and I created my own address and mailbox for it!”

How hard was it to get funding, and get the project off the ground?

“Back in the early 2000’s the buoyant property market in Australia matched with flexible lending like low-doc loans made it very achievable for individuals and companies to fund developments.

“We would always for look at creative ways to finance deals utilising option agreements, early access, delayed settlements and options where purchasers would pre-fund renovations.

“Overtime as the space changed and we grew our business and developments we brought in equity partners to JV in our projects with institutional bank lenders funding the debt.

“Now, there are a number of developer savvy non-bank lenders that we partner with which have flexibility in LVR limits, pre-sales and the ability to be a part of the developments we do.”

▲ Sea in Clovelly (top) Harriett in Neutray Bay (bottom left) and Grace in Northbridge (bottom right).

What have you got in the pipeline right now?

“We are currently in construction with a number of medium-density, high-end residential developments including The Harriette at Neutral Bay.

“One of our main focuses is a recently DA-approved masterplan site on the Central Coast spanning 160,000sq m and will become a transport-orientated state significant development for integrated housing and living with a value of more than $700 million.”

What sets you apart from other developers in this space?

“Fiducia bring a human touch to everything we do. We are all about people first. Our people, the people we collaborate with, the people in the community and the impact on people long term.

“I believe this stems from the fact we are a family business and our values of this align strongly with everything we do.”

How hard is it to break into the Sydney market, what are some of the unique challenges you have faced in this market?

“The Sydney market is one of the most diverse markets in Australia offering everything from small urban infill opportunities through to greenfield developments and everything in between.

“The key with anything you do, no matter where, is to bring your niche to what you are doing.

“Creativity over competition is a strong theme in our company and I believe even through the hardest times like the GFC we were still able to build and sell through this time because of this.”

How big is your organisation? How many dwellings have you built over what time period?

“The Fiducia team managed by myself and Ben Doyle is a tight core team of development managers in North Sydney with an amazing support team of HR and finance.

“For a small team we make a big impact. Fiducia has completed 62 projects over a range of small- to medium-density residential and mixed-use developments with a value of $470 million to date.”

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Article originally posted at: https://www.theurbandeveloper.com/articles/five-rising-sydney-property-developers-2021