Prominent developer Michael Fox has made an emphatic return to Fishermans Bend, lodging plans for a $300 million apartment tower in the vast urban regeneration just south of the Melbourne CBD.
As part of his new CostaFox joint venture with Geelong's well-known and wealthy Costa family, Mr Fox is planning a 40-storey skyscraper on Lorimer Street, one of the main thoroughfares through Fishermans Bend.
While the new platform, formed early last year, has been busy in Sydney and elsewhere in Melbourne, including with industrial projects, the return to Lorimer Street is an important one for Mr Fox.
Less than two years ago, he parted ways with Paul Little, after co-founding and leading their development platform Little Projects.
The pair had differed in their views on the housing market, with Mr Little adopting a more cautious outlook. Underlining that difference, Mr Little moved quickly to exit a massive 940-apartment project in Fishermans Bend after the split, selling it to a Shanghai player for $60 million.
The Little project was at 85 Lorimer Street. Barely 100 metres away is 111 Lorimer Street, which Mr Fox, through CostaFox, has taken control of through a $17.8 million sale-and-leaseback deal on part of a Subaru-occupied site.
The 4100-square-metre site has three street frontages and stands opposite a series of low-level townhouses developed as part of Mirvac's Yarra's Edge project along the riverbank.
Designed by Rothelowman, CostaFox's proposed tower comprises 396 apartments, along with a component of retail and commercial space.
The ebullient Mr Fox does not dwell on his past endeavours in Fishermans Bend but is firmly focused on the future of the 485-hectare precinct which is high on the list of government planning priorities and where development is still in its infancy.
At its closest it is only a kilometre and a short walk by pedestrian bridge over the Yarra to what Mr Fox calls the new financial heart of the city, the commercial towers of Docklands.
"Our real target market is all the new office workers in that financial area and to create an owner-occupier product," Mr Fox told The Australian Financial Review.
That's why the CostaFox project has a flexible design, making it easier to amalgamate apartments for potential owner-occupier families.
And like other developers including Tim Gurner and forecasters such as BIS Oxford Economics, Mr Fox anticipates a shortfall in supply in Melbourne.
Higher taxes and new rules limiting the proportion of an apartment tower that can be sold to offshore buyers have put the brakes on foreign buyers, he believes.
"It has taken everybody a long time to work out that the market is going to be under-supplied," Mr Fox said.
"All the overseas buyers are the ones creating the supply and the affordability and that is gone. It's harder to get these big towers up now."
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