Property Developments: New concepts of living

March 23, 2016
property developments

Bridgehill, one of the first Chinese property developers to spot the opportunity in Sydney’s booming apartment market, has a successful track record in Australia in terms of quality property developments, according to The Australian Financial Review.

In four and a half years, the group has collected around A$700 million (HK$4 billion) from the market and has accumulated 1,800 apartment lots for land banking for property developments. It has also developed the capacity to deliver 500 fully furnished premium apartment units annually, eyeing millions of square metres of town development in New South Wales.

Such property developments have made Bridgehill one of the largest and fastest-growing property developers in Australia. Its projects include the premium apartment complex Bridgehill Residences and Esprit Mascot apartments, which feature out-of-the-box architectural design concepts.

Architect Xu Yibin, the group’s managing director, always dreamed of creating a landmark building overlooking Sydney Harbour. When he finally got the chance, he worked with architects SJB to build Bridgehill Residences on the prestigious Milsons Point peninsula for the property developments.

“We wanted to create one of the best projects over there,” Xu says. “We aspired to build something fresh and beautiful.”

Milsons Point is the high-end apartment development Xu had in mind. With end-to-end glass walling, each unit offers a wrap-around view of the world’s largest natural harbour. To the south, residents enjoy a breathtaking view of the iconic Sydney Opera House.

The building stands on a peninsula, so there is water everywhere one looks. Virtually all glass, one may stoop over the clear walls on the way to the kitchen to check out yachts darting here and there on the gleaming water below. The units can be as big as a penthouse with three bedrooms, furnished with large bathrooms, top-of-the-line kitchen equipment and polished natural wooden floors.

“We never try to downgrade our product to win the competition,” Xu says. “As a developer, we do not create simply to earn money. We want to build a beautiful environment that accommodates people’s current needs. We want to lead in creating new concepts of living to show people a glimpse of the future.”

Bridgehill Residences was a huge success. In one and a half hours, the project was sold out. During that short period, Bridgehill collected about A$150 million, with apartments priced up to A$7.8 million. The buyers included wealthy Chinese families purchasing units for their children.

Young company, old faces

“We are a young company with old faces,” Xu says. “Bridgehill is relatively new, but we’ve got plenty of experience.”

The company is less than five years old, but its management teams have been in the property development business for more than 20 years. The key company leaders, for instance, have held top posts for a number of leading Australian property developers.

“Most architects know how to design buildings, but they normally lack knowledge of other development factors,” Xu says. “Success for a property developer is finding the right place for the right person, and setting the right price and releasing at the right time.”

Revolutionary design concepts

Much of Bridgehill’s triumph also has to do with how well it meets customer needs using unconventional architectural concepts.

“The traditional way presents us fixed definitions from room to room,” Xu says. “You have a category for every individual space. I just want to destroy that kind of notion and let people choose.”

The company has experimented with bedroom space, which is normally used as a sleeping area only at night and not used during the day. If one has lots of people coming over, the bed can be tucked away and the room can be used as an extra space of about 50 square metres. The strategy creates a tremendous feeling of space. Then at night, when all the guests have gone, one can pull out the bed and transform the space back into a bedroom.

“We’re more inclined to create a new category of building development every time,” Xu says. “We look at the structure of people’s lives, the way they work, study and how their family is connected. We strongly believe fixed categories have to be broken and revolutionised.”

In one instance, Bridgehill achieved a low-density or less-crowded residential space feeling in its new development project, Esprit Mascot residences. When Xu travelled across Western Australia, he noticed that families prefer traditional low-density houses. He conducted research and found out that only less than 10 per cent of the market prefers living in high-density apartments.

“We are in a dilemma because the population increase has inevitably led to a lot of crowded developments,” Xu says. “I really do not want such properties. The challenge was how we can marry the traditional low-density street image with the property industry’s high-density profile. As such, I came up with the ‘elevated street’ concept.”

Esprit Mascot creates an overriding theme on each floor. The ground floor has springtime: colours burst, and shade trees change with the time of year and the turn of the sun.

Esprit Mascot’s expansive raised podium gardens and linear park form a lush, green retreat within city limits. Tenants venture outside with a good book and a cold drink, spread out on the grass beneath the flowering purple jacarandas and enjoy the first warm days of spring. At one end of the garden, a glazed communal summer house forms an indoor-outdoor room that opens to a deck, stone courtyard and barbecue area.

Going up to the top floor, the theme on that elevated street is winter. The change in mood and colour varies dramatically as one goes through the floors, with each level designed like an elevated street depicting the different seasons of the year.

The lobbies are supersized, while see-through slots reveal inviting glimpses into Esprit Mascot’s lush landscaped internal world. Glazed corridors resemble open laneways, punctuated by voluminous voids that form chapel-like breakout zones overlooking private gardens of tenants.

“We do not dwell on what other developers are already doing,” Xu says. “We never copy anyone, as we strive to always create something new for the market. There are risks whenever you do something different, but I am not afraid to stand by my philosophy.”

Property developments like Bridgehill Residences, Esprit Mascot also sold out. On initial launch, the project sold 80 per cent of its 500 apartment units, the property developments of which started last February.

Bridgehill, however, dreams of sharing more than excellent quality and out-of-the-box design concepts. Xu wants to share the company’s developments with more people.

“One of my dreams is that people will be able to own a home just as easily as owning a car,” Xu says.

“A key point is in the cost, and we have to discover advanced building materials and technology to be able to cut costs – a goal I always try to pursue.”

New opportunities

As Bridgehill continues to prepare for more projects, it is accumulating greenfield land across New South Wales for property developments.

“We do not want to be just a property developer. We want to become a town developer as well,” Xu says.

The company aims to transform a huge tract of land in Wollongong into a 3 million-square-metre international town development. Meanwhile, Bridgehill will also be constructing a residential complex on a 1.8-hectare site at the heart of Sydney’s Green Square. This year, the company will initially develop 420 apartment units in towers that go as high as 15 storeys.

Located a minute’s walk from Green Square railway station, the site is a crucial spoke within the Green Square Town Centre urban development plan, under which it has been designated a potential gross floor area of 65,500 square metres. According to the development plan, the site has a capacity for about 820 apartments with shops and restaurants at the ground level. Bridgehill will develop the complex in two stages.

From the seventh floor of Bridgehill’s headquarters along Rider Boulevard in Rhodes, Xu watches the sun set on the horizon. For many years, New South Wales has been his second home. From time to time, he offers his architectural services for free and is eager to help those migrating from China to also find success in Australia. In the same place where the first Europeans settled in Australia, Xu has likewise mustered the talent and passion to make Bridgehill a big success in this part of the globe.

“We at Bridgehill are not only property developers,” Xu says. “We are not limited to this business. Our hearts and goals are encompassing as we strive to create a brand customers can trust and love.”

Originally published by South China Morning Post