Little Projects Managing Director Michael Fox has over 20 years experience in the property industry, with enviable roles at leading companies such as Toll Holdings, Smorgon Consolidated Industries, Knight Frank and McGee's National Property Consultants. With the determination to create and deliver the market's most innovative and high quality lifestyle developments, Michael assembled a team of industry experts and set about buying land.
Five years on Little Projects has steadily acquired many of Melbourne's most premium development sites, and a strong reputation for quality and care.
Do you think apartment living is gaining popularity? If so, why?
In recent years, apartment living has become an attractive, low maintenance proposition for increasing numbers of homebuyers, and the appetite for this type of living is increasing.
Apartment developments are an attractive prospect to homebuyers and investors because they present an opportunity to buy affordably priced property within easy reach of the city and existing infrastructure.
What makes a good apartment building?
The quality of an apartment building often takes into account how much the developer gives back to the residents, in terms of the location and quality of residential amenities. In years gone by, most of a building’s amenities were tucked away on the ground floor.
In order to create the best possible buildings for residents, we’ve focused on bringing these communal amenities to the forefront of the building, in premium locations, such as the rooftop.
As well as amenity within the building, a project’s location has a lot to do with its quality.
At Little Projects, we love areas such as South Yarra, St Kilda’s Fitzroy Street and Bay Street in Port Melbourne. All these locations are packed with quality shops, restaurants and public transport.
Have you noticed any changes in the apartment market?
What’s happened is that the apartment market has matured. There was a time when self-managed super funds and Asian investors were leading the charge, but what we’re seeing now is the emergence of owner-occupiers on the hunt for larger apartments.
This increasing demand is potentially being influenced by the Victorian Government’s debate around Better Apartments, which will lead to bigger and better designed dwellings.
That said, I think the market understands that small does not necessarily mean bad, as affordable options need to be available. It’s more that they understand that decent sized apartments cost a fair bit of money and that’s a price they’re willing to pay, in order to simplify their life by scaling down from the large family home.
Little Projects is known for providing first-class facilities such as residents' pools, lounges and gyms. With so many new towers under construction, how does Little Projects set itself apart?
What sets us apart is our willingness to give up the premium space on the rooftop for residents to enjoy magnificent communal facilities. This is something that a lot of developers just don’t do.
At Central South Yarra, residents will be the beneficiaries of some amazing communal spaces, including a magnificent private rooftop dining room, lounge room, indoor swimming pool, steam room, external barbecue and gymnasium overlooking Port Phillip Bay.
Likewise at our upcoming project The Elfin, also in South Yarra, residents here will have access to a rooftop Sky Garden with panoramic city views and a purpose-built entertainment deck.
At our new Richmond development, we will have an amazing rooftop pool, which will be on level 10, with stunning views north, south and east of the CBD.
What are some examples of where developers have got it right and why?
We think we got it right at our two previous towers in South Yarra, ILK and Central. Both sold out off the plan, leased exceptionally well, and now have thriving communities living within.
There are other firms out there who are doing great things as well, but I do think we need to get together as a group of developers and look at urban areas and plan communities that extend outside the building.
At the moment, developers are delivering individual facilities to their building, such as a pool or a gym. There is scope for us to work together to provide these facilities on a more communal basis, for example a neighborhood pool, rather than a pool exclusively for residents of a building.
In other words, we are creating communities within buildings and we need to be thinking more broadly. Who is providing the childcare facilities, libraries and netball courts? Government is great at getting developers to commit to parks, but is parkland enough? I think developers could be playing a greater role.
Who are your favourite architects or designers?
Mim Design, Elenberg Fraser, RotheLowman, Plus Architecture, Hecker Guthrie and Alfred Debruyn.
What is the most pressing policy issue facing your industry?
In May this year, the Victorian Minister for Planning Richard Wynne released a discussion paper seeking input on how to address growing concerns about poorly designed apartments.
Broadly speaking, the Better Apartments discussion paper, which will form the basis of long- awaited apartment guidelines that will be handed to the Minister by mid-2016, seeks to address the size of units and their balconies, as well as other issues such as accessibility, noise and access to light.
The issues outlined in that paper have become extremely hot within the industry. In July, Little Projects made an official submission to the Minister, outlining our concern that strict guidelines, particularly in relation to minimum sizes, will make apartments less affordable, which will subsequently shut out the next generation of first-home buyers.
What drives you - has there been someone or something that has inspired your career?
The man who has inspired me the most is the late David Burger who was Managing Director and Founder of City Freeholds, in Sydney. He was my great friend and mentor and taught me so much. He was a man who migrated to Australia with nothing and built and empire in Sydney. He remains my inspiration.