Its nickname is the ‘bush capital’ and for years interstate and international property investors have not had Canberra on their radar. But times are changing with investors from overseas trawling through the ACT and aggressively bidding for land, especially centrally located blocks ripe for inner city, mixed-use developments.
The sale of Section 200 in the town centre of Belconnen in June for $22.1 million, well above market expectations, is an example. Canberra’s biggest property developer in the ACT’s apartment space—GEOCON—beat out 10 other bidders, including a major Asian property developer, to secure the sale, keeping this prime piece of real estate ‘local’.
Section 200 is the second largest brownfield land site purchase in ACT history and the biggest in the last eight years in the ACT. GEOCON bought the 16 314-square-metre block of land from the Land Development Agency.
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Urban revitalisation is the name of the game in Canberra, as it is in Sydney, Melbourne and other major centres, to meet the pressures of demand for quality property, says GEOCON’s managing director, Nick Georgalis. While the ACT population makes up just 1.7 per cent of the national total and today tops off at around 379,600, the population is growing at a noticeable rate. Australian Bureau of Statistic figures show that Canberra’s population grew by 2.3 per cent in 2012—the second highest nationally.
The purchase of Section 200 is in line with the GEOCON’s ‘Building Canberra’ vision and national trends to use dead blocks of land to improve inner-city landscapes for businesses, surrounding communities and to stimulate economic growth.
"It’s all about urban revitalisation," Mr Georgalis said.
"Our vision for Section 200 is to develop a world-class, mixed-use precinct that will combine residential apartments with a new hotel and commercial, retail and public use offerings. We’ll be researching some of the most advanced and successful precincts operating nationally and internationally to inform our design and planning."Like residents in other cities, Canberrans crave vibrant urban precincts that are alive with a unique mix of services, including in the areas of hospitality, the arts and entertainment. GEOCON’s big plans for the barren piece of land in the inner suburb of Belconnen will met an unmet demand for this.
Impression of GEOCON's Wayfarer development
"The best in urban renewal projects across Australia are not just “property developments”, but exciting projects that rejuvenate, making them better places to live and work,’ Mr Georgalis said.
Chair of the Belconnen Community Council Tara Cheyne said, "Town centres need to become more dense in Canberra.""The Council’s vision is for a vibrant town centre where it’s easy to walk around, with lots of interesting things for people to see and do, and opportunities to linger. Development needs to continue in a sustainable, measured way and we need to continue to ensure there is harmony between built form and preserving open space."The sales price for Section 200 smashed market expectations but for GEOCON the block of land is a sign of confidence in Belconnen and a unique opportunity to develop an innovative precinct that will be a drawcard to the area.
GEOCON is the developer behind Canberra’s tallest residential tower, Wayfarer, which is across the road from Section 200. Designed by Cox Architecture, Wayfarer will have a sky lounge with 365 degree views, a rooftop pool perched on Level 27 and high-quality inclusions.
GEOCON’s rapid growth is owed to its position in the highly competitive and tough real estate market in the capital.
"We deliver affordable apartments in the mid-market price range, but the product is a higher quality than the average available in the same market segment,’ Mr Georgalis said.
GEOCON’s current market developments include: