Richard Gu on the refined intentions of AXF Group

Urban Melbourne recently spoke with AXF Group Managing Director Richard Gu regarding all things property, and the future intent of the now well established Melbourne-based developer.

Created during 2005 (with the help of Shanghai-based parent company Xiangfu), AXF Group first cut its teeth in the apartment sector with a medium-density complex located at 18-26 Bell Street, Heidelberg. While the Heidelberg project was completed during 2010, the current day AXF Group holds a stable of development opportunities with one common goal: the delivery of high quality living spaces.

Imperial Doncaster heads the current crop of apartment developments with construction well advanced on the project. Located on Doncaster Hill and maintaining views over Melbourne's CBD, the project is near on two months ahead of schedule with contractor Hacer Group expected to reach completion during June.

Imperial Doncaster. Images courtesy Hacer Group

Stressing the development's quality location and ample apartment formats, some of which are at 200 square metres, Richard explained that a recent Chinese New Year limited-time offer to waive stamp duty on any purchases within Imperial had helped push sales ahead. With practical completion in sight, AXF Group are now releasing the developer’s reserved stock within the Buchan Group-designed project.

It's the market positioning, intrinsic quality and subsequent success of Imperial within a cluttered Doncaster apartment market which has in part helped AXF Group define their development course for the immediate future. 85% of purchasers within Imperial are noted as owner-occupiers with 15% of apartments offered sold for in excess of $1 million.

According to Richard, AXF Group like many other developers was heavy with developments slanted toward investors rather than owner-occupiers. Yet with the success of Imperial the focus has shifted toward attracting the premium owner-occupier in forthcoming developments.

Subsequently two high profile development sites have or are in the process of being moved on by AXF Group. Footscray's Kinnears Rope Factory site with the prospect of 1400 dwellings and 1,000sqm of retail space has sold to a mainland Chinese developer, while the well publicised 545 Station Street in Box Hill is also for sale. With approval for 419 dwellings and a potential serviced apartment component, Richard is confident the site and endorsed plans will attract a buyer.

This shift in AXF Group's paradigm is well demonstrated in Melbourne's CBD. Based upon the group's observations Richard believes that the influx of recent apartment projects has lead to a glut of investor-grade apartments while the top-end resident has been neglected to a degree. While tight-lipped about a specific address, Richard says AXF Group will soon unveil a new development in the 'Paris End' of the CBD, well away from the investor-driven towers sprouting up in the western and northern areas fo the CBD.

This CBD project will be front and centre in AXF Group's efforts to target the owner-occupier market.

Asked on the progress of another intended project at 180 Russell Street, Richard revealed that the marquee tower has received some design refinement based upon discussion with State planning officials and that the project is still firmly on track. First revealed by Urban Melbourne, the Buchan Group-designed mixed-use tower would include a hotel component, apartments and an active civic scape fronting the Chinatown precinct and Russell Street.

Artist's impression of 180 Russell Street's street level activation. Image courtesy Buchan Group

In line with the realignment of expectations, AXF Group has elected to suspend the planned roll-out of their So Stay serviced apartment brand for the time being.

Further afield AXF Group have spread into the Sydney market with similar high-end intentions in mind. While both Parramatta and Liverpool maintain robust apartment markets, AXF Group intend to emulate the traits of Imperial in targeting the premium portion of the market. There is no surprise at Richard's synopsis of the current Melbourne and overall Australian apartment market; while there is oversupply in certain market sectors, excellent opportunity and undersupply exists for refined, quality apartments,

That's an opportunity which AXF Group intends to capitalise upon.

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