As signs emerge that the spread of coronavirus is stabilising in Australia, 2020 has prompted many to rethink how effectively we operate and do business, while “shovel-ready” projects ramp up in a bid to support the economy.
“We’re in a health crisis now. We’re about to enter an economic crisis. But both of those will pass,” Consolidated Properties executive chairman Don O'Rorke said at The Urban Developer’s virtual conference on Friday.
“And how do we come out of this in the best possible way?”
O'Rorke joined Beulah International’s Adelene Teh and BPM founder Jonathan Hallinan on Friday at the Residential vSummit, to share what Covid-19 is teaching each developer about property, business and life.
“I’ve always thought that if you have balance you could never have true success,” BPM founder Jonathan Hallinan said on Friday.
“But this time is showing us that I can probably spend more time with family and friends, slow it down a little.
“I don’t need to be as tough, and I can still be incredibly productive.”
Hallinan who went “all chips in” taking on the 46-level $350 million Shadow Play tower in South Melbourne, started out in low scale residential projects 25 years ago, after purchasing his first property for $90,000 in Melbourne’s Bentleigh at age nineteen.
“I went from 140 units as the biggest scale project I had completed to the $350 million development with more than 500 apartments signed.
“Realistically, looking back, I probably didn’t have the experience,” Hallinan said. “I won’t forget that moment thinking, I’m actually going to pull this off”.
As for Covid-19 and its disruption on the sector, Hallinan said the shutdown period had expanded his outlook.
“New ways of thinking, new ways of doing business — and that's starting to excite me,” he said.
“It’s [asking] how can we do business differently? Do we need to be as intense?
For Beulah co-founder Adelene Teh, a flexible working environment along with work-place design, have inadvertently been highlighted by social distancing measures.
“What we’re finding is, people are enjoying working from home. We’re finding that we’re very productive, we’re relaxed, and we’re saving time not commuting,” Teh said.
“And that’s a big one — because time is luxury!”
“To be able to have the luxury of time, to spend time with your loved ones, to work within a comfortable environment is a huge realisation right now,” Teh said.
Teh, who was last month approved by the Victorian government for her $2 billion inner city development, said she would be considering these aspects across Beulah’s project pipeline.
Victoria green-lit four major development projects last week, with the building sector comprising more than 8 per cent of the state’s economy.
Teh said the Southbank development's launch date is “still” set for 2021, with construction on Australia’s tallest tower development at 365-metres, slated to start next year.
Like most in the sector, O'Rorke saw 2020 as a big year “all round” in property.
The industry veteran with more than 40 years under his belt, described Covid-19 as the “most challenging environment to date”, calling on all levels of government to advance “shovel ready” projects to support the economy.
“It’s undoubtedly the worst we’ve had to face. Who would’ve thought, we’d wake up one day and Virgin would be in receivership,” O'Rorke said.
“What we’ve asked ourselves is, how can we best deal with this? And our approach to it —as much as we can — is say, business as usual.”
What does 'business as usual' look like for the Queensland-based developer? O'Rorke says this takes shape in three steps, with the first as, “staying close to stakeholders”.
“In our retail portfolio, our stakeholders are — our tenants, they’re the investors in the various trusts we are part of, they are our bankers. Our construction partner Hutchinson Builders is also a major stakeholder.”
The second: “Doing the things we can control, and not worrying about the things that we can’t control,” O'Rorke said. “And in that way, we feel we’re making progress every day.”
O'Rorke describes the third part of the equation is looking beyond Covid-19 to the recovery phase.
“We have to look past this crisis.
“We’re in a health crisis now. We’re about to enter an economic crisis. But both of those times will pass, and how do we come out of this the best possible way?