Earlier this year, veteran developer Nick Saraceno teamed up with Tony Schiavello for the delivery of the $1 billion M-City development in Melbourne's eastern suburbs.
For the long-term friends, the joint venture was a welcome one – Nick Saraceno had been looking for a development partner for the mixed-use precinct for the better part of three years.
The development occupies 3.52 hectares of land on the corner of Blackburn Road and Princes Highway, close to Monash university's Clayton campus and Monash Children’s Hospital.
Following successful stage one sales, the project signed on a hotel operator and launched the final Buchan Group-designed tower in October. Schiavello and the Saraceno Group will retain the non-residential assets of the project. Construction on M-City commenced last month, and is due for completion in late-2020.
The Urban Developer spoke with Nick Saraceno and Tony Schiavello to gain a better insight into their joint venture and the M-City development.
[Related reading: Hotel Operator Announced for Saraceno Group’s $1bn M-City Development]
TUD: M-City was a site that was dormant for over 10 years – why the choice to develop it now?
Tony: It’s Nick’s vision of the last 25 years, [he] bought the site in 1991. It was a large 35,000 square metre corner site, a large block of land that was industrial with bulky-goods tenants.
Nick: We have been working since that time up to today. I had a vision and waited for 26 years until the time was right to develop it. The original vision was for residential, retail, a shopping centre and a hotel development (I love hotels). The vision has not changed much, staying true to the original plan but just grown in scale, and improved over the years.
TUD: How has the current state of the market informed the proposed development mix? How much of M-City do you believe is driven by its proximity to the university?
Nick: The area has grown in demand because of Monash University and Monash Medical Centre. We have purposely built a considerable amount of amenity into the centre to serve not only M-City but also the surrounding south-east corridor and Clayton community.
The proposed M-City amenity medical services and pharmacies, will become very important for the people along the southeastern corridor. We envision that there will be about 4,000 people working, living, staying and shopping within M-City permanently on a daily basis. The 643 apartments, will provide accommodation to about 2,500 people alone.
[Related reading: Melbourne’s M-City Precinct Launches Final Tower]
TUD: How will M-City tie in with and provide value to its surrounding context?
Nick: A lot of people need to drive to get anywhere. With M-City they don’t need to drive because of the facility. We purposely thought about the sense of community at M-City as everything they need is under one roof. We deliberately wanted to create an urban village feel incorporating new technologies. There will also be a 6-screen cinema complex, a fabulous food hall, health centre and childcare.
M-City is also close to Monash University, Monash Medical Centre, research centres and the synchrotron. We will provide a 250-room hotel for people who need to stay in the area. People can choose to stay at the hotel and then enjoy the shopping, restaurant and entertainment at M-City.
TUD: What makes good development?
Nick: The architects, Buchan Group, have provided quality design and are experts at integrated developments, incorporating the residential apartment developments, with the commercial and shopping mall design.
The retail and shopping centre has plenty of natural light with a substantial sky light and the residential development has resort style facilities, with a swimming pool, cabana and extensive landscaped gardens.
M-City is the largest mixed-use development in Melbourne, you can see that M-City has been a welcome development for the area as it is 75 per cent sold already.
TUD: We understand this your first project together, can you give us a little further insight into how this joint venture started?
Tony: Nick and I have been friends for 51 years and I baptised Nick’s daughter. I am happy to join with the Saraceno family and I have known Nick’s wife since 1956.
Nick asked me a year and half ago to JV on the project. I was really committed with the Crown project, but I am very pleased to say I accepted and we came to an agreement to go ahead and get it done. We also bought land from a side street and are using it as a loading bay to better utilise the car park and the first floor shopping centre.
TUD: The first residential tower sold out within 2 weeks of launching, what do you believe drove these sales and made M-City so attractive for buyers?
Nick: M-City is a big success with 75 per cent sold overall and it is still selling 90 per cent to local buyers who recognise the opportunity and potential of the area.
M-City is destined to become a Clayton landmark.