As he approaches his 70th year, chairman and founder of listed development company Sunland Soheil Abedian believes property development has to mean much more than just making money.
Speaking at Urbanity, the Iranian-born architect who went on to become one of Queensland’s wealthiest property developers, says his salary from the company is dedicated to his education foundation helping youth in need complete higher education studies.
Sunland has delivered substantial developments since starting out with a single luxury home at 27 Cabana Boulevard on the Gold Coast which Abedian designed and built himself more than 30 years ago.
It was Abedian who convinced the late fashion designer Gianni Versace to create the world’s first fashion-branded hotel Palazzo Versace.
Sunland was also behind the creation of the world’s tallest residential tower Q1 on the Gold Coast.
“The reality of this industry should be about the legacy that you leave behind and not dividing our city based on who has or doesn't have wealth,” Abedian told The Urban Developer.
Of course, a career spanning multiple decades includes many ebbs and flows.
Sunland’s most recent controversial “Grace on Coronation” development in Brisbane’s inner west proposed three towers, with two rising 24-storeys and one 27-storeys high despite local planning regulations allowing a maximum 15-storey height limit.
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Despite community pushback to his Toowong project, Abedian still holds belief in the project’s vision as something that would benefit Brisbane’s skyline.
“The urban landscape, the city should be like a museum," he said.
“When you bring something new, something different, history shows there are always people who push back.
“Take the city of Paris for example, nobody liked the Eiffel tower when it was being built, today Paris is synonymous with the structure.”
I always design something that I would personally live in… of course there’s different categories of products but the reality is we have to always make sure that your product is a testimony to your ability.Soheil Abedian
Other development projects on Sunland’s horizon include a 44-storey tower in Mermaid Beach. The three-bedroom 240sq m apartments cost $1.8 million, while a two-storey 512sq m "sky villa" has a $5.3m price tag.
Sunland also recently secured a 3.26-hectare site in Brisbane’s south-west suburb of Kenmore for $13.1 million. The project has approval for 96 four-bedroom terrace homes and an estimated end value of $65 million.
But it’s Abedian’s mindfulness of the urban landscape and how buildings have the potential to live on much longer than our own lifespan once created.
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I think it is our duty in the construction industry to create something in the city beneficial to everybody.Soheil Abedian
“If you come into this industry solely to make money I can assure you with 100 per cent certainty that you will fail.
“But if you come into this industry to contribute for the betterment of the community and our urban landscape I can assure you 100 per cent you will succeed.”
Abedian was recently awarded the Queensland Community Foundation's Philanthropist of the Year Award for his contribution to education through the Abedian Foundation, which funded The Abedian School of Architecture at Bond University.
“Over three years we have signed up 180 scholarships at Griffith University and 21 scholarships at Bond University.”
The scholarships are aimed at ensuring young people experiencing personal or financial hardship access a first class education.
“Children are our future and there is no greater investment we can make in giving them every chance to shine and realise their potential,” Abedian said.
“I know first-hand how much it means for students to be given an opportunity to get ahead in life.
“I’m not really from a family with silver spoons in our mouths, but Australia has been very good to me.
“ My wife and I feel strongly about assisting the education of all children that do not have access to such opportunities.”