Melbourne’s property market has shifted. We continue to experience various changes with property values on the decline, banks are tightening their lending and first home buyers are still challenged when entering the property market. 

A new wave of property development has emerged in the form of build-to-rent, also known and popularised as multi-family in the US, an attractive option for a sizeable portion of the market.  

Bates Smart is proud to deliver the architecture and interior design of the first build-to-rent development, the 60-storey residential development located at City Road, Southbank, that was recently approved by the Victorian Government. 

Victorian Planning Minister, Richard Wynne has endorsed the proposal of the 400-apartment residential development, noting that barriers have been removed to pave the way for this new asset class that offers Melbournians a quality yet affordable housing option. 

“New ideas often take a while to navigate the planning system. These actions will ensure that build-to-rent can prosper and increase the stock of rental housing to meet the current record demand,” says Wynne. 

As an emerging asset class in the Australian property sector, theoretical expectations for multi-family housing anticipate the need for approximately 300,000 apartments in the next 20 years. While residential ‘build-to-sell’ developments are slowing in central Melbourne and the flow of capital is being directed towards commercial development, the demand for residential property and places to live is not diminishing.

If Melbourne’s population does double in the next 25 years, as forecast, we need to address the issue of housing provision in central Melbourne. The build-to-rent typology provides an opportunity for counter cyclical investment in residential property to continue to deal with this demand, while offering a more stable and secure rental environment than currently exists for tenants. 

In terms of design attributes, many would argue that build-to-rent lies at the intersection of luxury residential, the service quality of a luxury hotel and adopts the learnings of successful commercial developments in terms of fostering an integrated workplace culture. 

The design of this Southbank development has been distilled from the best offerings noted from significant field research locally and abroad including a study tour of the US, conducted in March 2018, where representatives from Bates Smart visited 18 properties across New York, Boston and San Francisco. Central to this research is the detailed understanding of the operational aspects of this form of residential accommodation and importantly, how this is supported by the physical attributes of the design. 

The common theme across all these properties was the increased emphasis on the amenity provided for the residents. The well-thought-out amenity areas and common spaces in these buildings are designed to actively promote a strong sense of place and a community that is more connected and socialised. The more socially connected the residents are, the lower the rate of resident turnover.  

Thus, the new build-to-rent mode is the first of its residential class to be centred around the psychographics, rather than the demographics of its occupants with the design focused on how to adapt to and improve the tenants’ lifestyle, working behaviours and ability to create stronger social connections. 

The provision of an on-site building management team, managed by the developer, that includes maintenance, was a model that was also noted as being highly successful and adds to the sense of security for residents. Issues that arise with short-stay AirBnB activities by private landlords are also immediately mitigated in the build-to-rent mode. 

The ability of build-to-rent projects to create community was one of the most interesting aspects encountered on the US study tour. Much of the success of this was related to the networks the building manager created through social opportunities and bringing like-minded people together. This, in many instances was coupled with fantastic spaces in which to enjoy the building’s amenity.  

The development provides a range of spaces, in addition to the apartments, which will promote a positive, healthy and human centric environment.  

The slender and elegant building has been designed in a manner to respect the character of the area and surrounding properties while ensuring it is unique to the other residential offerings in this location.  

The site is located at the junction of City Road and Kings Way – a highly trafficked area with convenient access to the vibrant entertainment precinct of Southbank and easy access to the CBD. It is also highly visible in the city and along the Yarra River, providing tenants with beautiful, open views across the city skyline. 

Southbank was a key industrial settlement of South Melbourne during the early 1900s. Many warehouses, manufacturers and wharfs made up the landscape of the area. Southbank began to fall into decline when port facilities were moved downstream to Docklands. Many historic buildings still exist today, allowing a unique and desirable architectural typology from which we can take inspiration. Our design approach draws on the historical industrial context of City Road and reflects the rich detailing in notable surrounding contexts such as Boyd Park and the Kings Way iron bridge. 

Our team is excited by the opportunity to showcase the design of Melbourne’s first build-to-rent offering that provides a genuine solution to our housing supply challenges that can be applied on a national scale.