The journey of one of Victoria’s most significant urban renewal projects.

The journey of one of Victoria’s most significant urban renewal projects.
Nicholas FaillaJune 4, 2020

Identifying underutilised land and rejuvenating new life into the area is a familiar game in property development. However, the specific category of urban renewal projects within the development industry take this process a few steps beyond the ordinary. Defined as “clearing out blighted areas and urban decay to create more opportunities for housing, businesses, and more”, urban renewal can often be risky. However, it is with this risk developers can seek out greater pay off and reward when successful.

One of the most challenging and rewarding projects I have worked on during my career at ICD Property has been our urban renewal estate, Gen Fyansford. Located 10 minutes from Geelong and 50 minutes from Melbourne’s CBD, Gen Fyansford is surrounded by beautiful nature escapes such as the Barwon and Moorabool River trails, amazing legacies crafted by skilled pioneers are still standing proud today such as the Monier Bridge, as well as many of Geelong’s best schools, cafes, and restaurants. A great development opportunity due to its incredible location in proximity to so much rich amenity.

However, the site was previously used as an old cement works facility and basalt quarry. Leaving behind significantly contaminated earth, that required substantial remediation before we could ever develop our shared vision with joint-venture partners Suplai, of a circa 1,200-lot neighbourhood community with parks, playgrounds, recreational facilities, and a town centre. To date, the successful environmental remediation of Gen Fyansford’s early stages has been one of the estate’s most significant achievements.

One of the toughest challenges ICD Property faced in the project’s beginnings was convincing the market to believe in our vision for the site and recognise the same potential we saw. Not only did we face the usual hurdles of alluring purchasers to a brand-new estate with little existing neighbourhood, but Gen Fyansford particularly faced the additional challenge of rebranding an area of Geelong that was previously known as industrial land. Yet we remained committed to our vision and passionate about uplifting the site to its highest use, engaging tier-one consultants to assist us. Although there is still a way to go, the risk has certainly paid off as we have now settled approximately 400 lots within Gen Fyansford and have built up a great reputation as one of Geelong’s premium estates. 

We are currently working to rehabilitate the quarry and fill the land’s significant deficit in order to level the ground, unlocking its development potential. In order to increase the developable area and decrease the deficit of fill, we have had to change the landform completely, blasting large portions of the eastern and southern spurs, utilising the blasted material as fill throughout the quarry. Minimising the number of off-site materials needed to be introduced and promoting sustainable development practices by repurposing the site’s native materials. 

Stakeholder management has been essential to Gen Fyansford’s development over the years with dialogue regularly undertaken with authorities and expert consultants. Further to this, ICD Property and Suplai continue to roll out a comprehensive community engagement process to ensure that all works are appropriately planned and communicated with development stakeholders, existing neighbouring houses and families, and local authorities. Activities such as community drop-in sessions, media releases, electronic direct mailing, and numerous meetings with authorities are a big element of Gen Fyansford’s development process. Follow-up communication and ongoing updates via text messages, dedicated website updates, and emails, continue to be an initiative to further reinforce the controlled process undertaken.

Although urban renewal projects are common in the property landscape, I truly believe Gen Fyansford’s setting is one in a million and totally unique to any other land subdivision project in Australia.

On top of the estate’s environmental considerations, the site is also recognised as having indigenous significance to the Wathaurung people and heritage importance due to its closeness to Moorabool Bridge, Swan Inn, and the old Geelong Orphanage. We have therefore undertaken additional processes to uphold the significance of the land and have worked closely with Heritage Victoria to ensure the site’s heritage significance is appreciated now and into the future.

After years of remediation, careful earthworks, and a long journey of rehabilitating the 100 plus hectare site, Gen Fyansford, is now approximately halfway through its delivery schedule and has become one of ICD Property’s proudest developments. Providing several distinct residential offerings to the area with each stage release.

For instance, in Stages 1 and 2, we sold lots right along the Moorabool River, offering views of the water and unparalleled access to nearby walking and biking paths. Then in Stage 4, we offered expansive views to the west and in Stage 6 released luxury lots atop Herne Hill with stunning panoramic views of Queens Park that set records for the most expensive land lots ever sold in Geelong at $900,000. 

Upon completion, Gen Fyansford will provide residents and the local community with a new bike and walking paths, parks, playgrounds, and a town centre to service the entire neighbourhood with much-needed amenities such as a potential grocery store and other specialist retail stores. 

Although the journey has been long and hard, and with much more still lying ahead, Gen Fyansford to me is the perfect example of a successful urban renewal. A unique case study that tells the story of how a developer saw potential in a land that was not well-integrated with its community, took on the risks of laborious remediation and rehabilitation, but are ultimately succeeded in creating an incredible outcome for the developer, neighbourhood, and wider city that has been received with overwhelming positivity by locals and commercial success.

Nicholas Failla

Nicholas is a content writer and graphic designer who is passionate about cities, architecture, urban planning and sustainable communities.

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