It’s been a bit of a long journey for me. I started out in a real estate agency when I was a teenager, which was 40 years ago now! In this role, I gained experience selling new apartment developments and beautiful villas in places like Byron Bay. From the outset, I was interested in design and how to optimise an opportunity, a space.
I think it was always a bigger picture life aspiration to move into property development. Then, though circumstance I met Wayne [Chivas – CE’s other Director], and we realised we had some common ambitions and complementary skills and so CE was born. As with most things, we started off quite small, and that has grown into what CE is today – an exceptional team of people and wonderful portfolio of developments leaving its mark in a high-quality way on the Sydney property market.
I think there’s a certain courage in how we look at opportunities. We are not interested in the cookie cutter approach in predictable locations. What gets us excited is doing things differently and I think that is the reason we’ve been involved in so many heritage projects – we see the potential in the reuse and rejuvenation of a space.
What it really comes down to is our desire to leave something a lot better than how we found it. Naturally it must make sense commercially as well, but we want to leave a mark, a legacy. What gets us out of bed is knowing we have done something that’s truly reinvigorated a building, a street, a community and hopefully added some value to people’s life along the way, be that through a retail shop, a beautiful hotel, or a luxury apartment.
There’s no doubt our industry has been challenged by increasing costs. For us, this meant we had two choices – compromise on quality in order to manage costs or take a different route, and we chose the latter. We realised there was a sector willing to pay a premium for a high-quality and uncompromising piece of real estate that would stand the test of time. So, we moved further upmarket into premium and ultra-luxury products.
This gave us space to do something very special. To consider only the best positions, and work with the best consultants not just in Australia, but now internationally. This meant we were able to absorb a lot of the additional costs and influences post covid that made it more challenging for our sector. I think this was always where we were heading, as creating truly remarkable places is what gets us excited, we don’t do well just doing enough to get by!
In general, the expectations and standards of people wanting to buy into the luxury market, be that expats, local or international buyers, is increasing, as is their awareness of style and trends. A beautiful piece of stone in the kitchen is no longer enough, we need to look at how the entire space operates. At CE we really think about what it’s like to live in these spaces and we sweat every cubic centimeter of that space!
This whole, call it rightsizing or downsizing if you like, it’s not just baby boomers but younger generations that are moving towards luxury apartments. Some of that is a by-product of high housing prices, but a lot of it is just people reassessing their lifestyles. Buyers do not want to compromise on position, amenity, privacy, security, and that sense of joy and comfort they get when walking into their home – that true sense of luxury.
Well, there are several answers to that. In terms of what we do, the legacy we leave with our beautiful developments, I am most proud of the complex projects. While the planning journey is often longer and more convoluted, that is just part of the challenge and represents opportunity. If you embark upon it with good intentions and respectfully, like we do, you tend to get good outcomes, and create something very special.
But what I am most proud of is the team of people who come together to create these projects. Our team has a wonderful connectivity. They each bring so much to the table, share their strengths, and really do embrace the common goal of doing something special. I’m proud to walk in the door and see the standard of people and feel the energy that is in this business. There is no development in isolation that will ever be more important than our people, our reputation, and our long-term future.
The products I’m most excited about are in development at the moment. It’s the way in which we have taken the heritage elements and recreated a space that had been dormant for many years in our Paddington hotel project, and for that matter its sister hotel in Potts Point, The Minerva Theatre. The way in which we are looking to really regenerate those spaces into what will be a vibrant place to stay, eat and spend time in.
I’m also in awe of our coastal developments, particularly the reinvigoration of the former Lord Mayor’s house from the 1860’s in Coogee, into one of the most desirable collection of residences in the east.
There’s really no one answer, I think they are all representative of CE in different ways, of how we hopefully walk our talk. And I think they’ll all leave Sydney a bit better than we found it.
I think every luxury developer can say that they do more than is expected or they are really focused on delivering something special and thinking long-term, and, to a large extent that is true. But I think what sets us apart is our courage to really take that to a whole new level in terms of doing something very different.
We always ensure that we have a very long-term view when listening to how people feel around us, from those who do business with us to those who walk past our developments. It’s a level of respect that is shown in all stages of our process, from that initial idea, through consultation with the community, all the way to if someone had an issue with something in years to come. I think it’s that care factor, that legacy that comes with a multi-generational business that’s here to stay.