In this month’s Developer Profile series, Michael Fox, Managing Director of Melbourne-based Little Property Group talks with TheUrbanDeveloper.com’s Georgie Cameron.
Little Property Group was founded in 2010 by Chairman, Paul Little and Managing Director, Michael Fox and has since become one of Melbourne’s largest property developers with close to $1 billion worth of projects in the pipeline. Little Property Group is a combination of three iconic brands all aiming to make their mark on the city of Melbourne.
1. How did you get started in property?
I began in the property industry 25 years ago with my initial role being in property management and then progressing through to residential sales. I then moved into commercial property management and sales in what I would term, corporate real estate. My move to Toll Holdings saw me running their property portfolio for 13 years whereby I worked under the guidance of Paul Little. At the time Toll Holdings was turning over approximately $300 million for which I oversaw approximately $9 million. In addition to this Paul and I decided to purchase and develop a small project within the Richmond area comprising of 133 apartments which we sold through a local agent, Geoffrey Wilson Real Estate. Little Property Group has stemmed from this initial investment, purchasing Geoffrey Wilson Real Estate in order to establish the Little Residential brand. In addition to Little Projects and Little Residential a third Little Commercial has been incorporated into Little Property Group’s integrated business model.
2. What sort of projects are you focused on?
Little Property Group specialises in prime fringe city locations within the Melbourne market. Our developments are generally comprised of converting old industrial sites into residential communities in order to cater for the city fringe markets. We currently are focused on the local Melbourne market with developments in Richmond, St Kilda, Port Melbourne, South Yarra and East Brunswick. At this stage we have chosen to stay away from the more urban centres of Melbourne such as the city and Southbank.
3. How do you approach design in your projects?
At Little Property, we strive to deliver more than just the average property developer in terms of design. We do this by partnering with the best architects in the current market, such as RotheLowman, Ascui Edwards and Interlandi Mantesso to name a few. We approach our project’s spaces carefully in order to get the most out of what’s offered, whilst also keeping a close eye on the design process from major features through to quality kitchen appliances.
4. How does the business model of three separate brands benefit Little Property Group?
Little Property Group’s brands of Little Projects, Little Residential and Little Commercial enable us to stay involved with our developments as opposed to offloading them upon completion. By allowing us to build our developments under the Little Projects brand and then passing them on to Little Residential or Commercial for them to sell, manage and resell our business model offers a more sustainable development option. This gives us an advantage over our competitors as we are able to offer multiple services with end-to-end property management solutions.
5. What’s your outlook on the Melbourne market?
The past few months have been fairly ordinary with low stock levels, at around 50 per cent, across the industry. A decline is evident from the booming 2010 to early 2011 period however it seems the market is returning to a normal, yet stable balance. This is apparent with Little noticing an increase in numbers for our open inspections and our off the plan sales maintaining and selling as to be expected.
6. What other projects are you currently working on?
We are currently nearing the completion of three major developments. The first being 101 Bay Street, Port Melbourne, a residential community offering 256 apartments scheduled for completion within the next month, with the following stages to reach completion before the end of December. Our Payload development, 161 Fitzroy Street, St Kilda is expected to have completed construction of 150 apartments by February next year. We have also recently reached our halfway milestone for the 388 apartment development at 227 Toorak Road, South Yarra. Further to this Little Property Group has announced the start of construction of their 400 apartment Tip Top Project located on Edward Street, East Brunswick, following the $100 million dollar construction contract being awarded to Icon Construction.
7. What is your approach to environmental sustainability within your projects?
Little has a primary focus on environmental sustainability in our developments. Majority of our projects have reached a 6 star environmental rating and we attempt to integrate large green elements into our projects where possible. Our Toorak Road development for instance has a garden walk on the site and our East Brunswick development will include solar panelling to run the public lighting and also incorporate a rainwater collection process.
8. Where do you see Little Property Group by 2020?
Little Property Group is focused on becoming one of Melbourne’s largest property developers responsible for designing quality buildings in quality areas. We will strive to produce developments that offer a comprehensive mix of quality, leading designs and environmental sustainability in prime city fringe locations.
9. Can you provide some insight into your non work routine?
I am quite the fitness fanatic and enjoy many aspects of maintaining my health from spin classes, Pilates to running. I was born and bred in Kew and am father to three daughters between the ages of 10 to 15, who also keep me very busy. I’m currently recovering from shoulder surgery but hope to return to my full fitness routine as quickly as possible.