19th January 2016.
Is Perth ready for a wave of apartment mega-towers?
IT wasn't that long ago that a 30-storey apartment proposal was considered a bit of a stretch in Perth.
After all, the city's tallest apartment tower, Equus, which was completed in 2011, and rises 26 storeys, or 111 metres, above the old Cinema City site between Hay and Murray streets, is only the city's nth tallest building.
But developers are shifting gears and pitching bigger and taller developments as Perth's apartment market moves into its next phase.
The biggest project is a 67-storey and 58-storey double tower behemoth proposed for the old Megamart site on the outskirts of the CBD, buildings which would be the fourth and fifth tallest in Perth.
Business News reported online last week that joint venture partners ICD Property and EG Funds Management had lodged a fresh development application for the site, flagging 1,066 apartments.
In current apartment market conditions where buyers have a plethora of choice available to them, getting pre-sales across the line for a project of such magnitude will certainly be a challenge.
Adding to that is the fact the Northbridge area surrounding the project's proposed site is already home to a large list of proposals.
Blackburne Property Group has put out construction tenders for its 22-storey, 80-apartment Oracle on Stirling Street, while Stirling Capital is also pursuing two big projects - the 32-level, 168-apartment One Hundred & Eight; and the 136-apartment, 19-storey Verdant, at 78 Stirling Street.
Chinese developer Zone Q investments is also understood to be making good progress on pre-sales for its Nspire 108 project, just down Beaufort Street from the Megamart site, which will be another big tower, at 21 storeys and 184 apartments.
However, ICD Property has the track record to back up its bravado, with the cashed-up developer making good progress constructing a 63-level, 633-apartment building in Melbourne, the Eq Tower.
ICD and EG are not the only developers pitching 'mega-towers' in Perth.
At Kings Square, landowner Seven Group Holdings has proposed another double-tower development, this one of 43 and 49 storeys, designed by international architecture firm Woods Bagot.
However, there is no clear timetable for the project, with Seven Group looking to sell the site.
Woods Bagot regional executive chairman Mark Mitcheson-Low said developments of such scale required a sensitive design focus, especially in a competitive market.
"As designers, you have to design them so they're not all in or nothing, you have got to be able to stage it," Mr Mitcheson-Low told Business News.
"But if it's a good product, people will come.
"When you see thousands of apartments at the same price point, and they're all vanilla, it's pretty hard to make a choice.
"But if you've got a standout, it may cost a little bit more, but people will spend to get into the right location."
Mr Mitcheson-Low said the large-scale towers would suit international buyers, already used to similar developments in their home cities.
"We're doing those sorts of projects all around the world," he said.
"It's nothing elsewhere, but in Perth it's a new trend.
"It's part of Perth maturing with its growing population."
Elsewhere in the city, Singaporean developer Fragrance Group purchased St Andrew's Church on St Georges Terrace, where a 41-storey, 280-apartment tower was approved in late 2014.
Business News understands Fragrance Group is evaluating plans for the site and the scope of the project may change, but it is still expected to be a significant tower.
The states leading apartment developer, Finbar Group, also has a pair of mega-towers on its books.
Construction has begun on the 38-level, 226-apartment Concerto project on Adelaide Terrace, at the old ABC studio site, while across the river in South Perth, sales are well under way at Civic Heart, a 38-storey, 294-apartment development that includes a three-level shopping centre with a full-line supermarket.
Also in South Perth, Westbridge Property Group is busy advancing its plans to build Glass House, a 41-storey, 138-apartment development.
In total, there are 12 apartment towers above 30 storeys in various stages of the construction or planning pipeline, developments that will, if they go ahead, add significant height and depth to Perth's ever-changing city skyline.
Those towers collectively total 3,673 apartments.
The new wave of Perth apartment projects isn't just all about height, however; Far East Consortium's two apartment towers at Elizabeth Quay, part of the Ritz-Carlton development, are 23 and 20 storeys, but will contain 335 apartments.
Fragrance Group has also won approval for a 33-level, 401-apartment project at 374-376 Murray Street.
Director of economics at property research and consulting firm Urbis, David Cresp, said while most developers were experiencing reasonable challenges, the level of amenity that large-scale projects afforded would likely ensure their success.
"We're starting to see more national and international developers coming into Perth, and that's bringing in new and interesting things in terms of design and levels of amenities ... it's something the Perth market is going to benefit from over the next couple of years," Mr Cresp said.
"The level of amenity you can put in something of this sort of scale is something that's never been done before in Perth."
Y Research chief problem solver Damian Stone said it was still too early to tell whether or not the mega-towers would be successful.
"So far we've seen moderate sales at a lot of the larger projects and long time frames," Mr Stone told Business News.
"But is that a symptom of the market in general or is it specific to these larger projects?
"That's what we're waiting to see in the next six months."