Keeping Up the Pace with Shane Wilkinson

Pace Development Group, has recently outbid a number of other developers in acquiring two development sites in Melbourne’s North West, including a five-hectare former quarry site in Sunshine North for $34 million, which is set to become Pace’s first premium townhouse project. 

Director Shane Wilkinson says the Sunshine project will deliver townhouses on the Maribyrnong River's edge and presents an exciting opportunity to develop activated, community-focused housing that would add a large amount of amenity to the suburb. However, this does not necessarily signal a change in Pace's development strategy but rather represents the developer returning to its roots while maintaining its ongoing success in the apartment market as the core of the business. 

Historically, the business was established developing townhouse units around Melbourne’s South East and graduated to medium density projects throughout inner-city Melbourne as our construction capability and experience grew. We’ve identified an enormous opportunity to apply our learnings from the luxury apartment market into estate developments, where there is unprecedented demand for quality, architecturally designed townhouses in inner-city areas.

This does not mean an abandoning of apartment projects for Pace - which I envisage remaining as our core business – but rather, an exciting opportunity to bring what we do so well in the apartment space to a booming area of the property market.

- Shane Wilkinson, Managing Director, Pace Development Group

Pace has a number of apartment projects on the go in Melbourne's inner and middle suburbs with the group also gaining approval for a 12-level apartment building above Abbotsford's St Crispin House in August.

The new development at 247-259 Johnston Street will preserve the redbrick, heritage façade of St Crispin House - a remnant of Abbotsford's manufacturing past. - while also providing 136 apartments in addition to a 20-metre rooftop infinity pool, indoor and outdoor dining, lounge areas, a gymnasium and ground level retail which will add to the surrounding cafés, bars and eateries.

Pace of Abbotsford. Image: Pace Development Group

In a recent interview, Shane Wilkinson discusses what drives the continued success of the business he founded over 20 years ago and what his expectations are for the next 18 months to 5 years.

How have recent policy changes which have resulted in a noticeable drop in investor purchases affected the Pace business?

We have certainly seen a decrease in the number of investors buying into our developments since 1 July, however our developments have always been weighted to the owner-occupier so this change has not significantly affected our business.

I commend our banks and policymakers on precipitating the current correction in our market. No developer wants to see the market overheat – we are all supportive of the industry remaining viable for many years to come and as such, this flat-line in the property
cycle, which I believe will be sustained for 18 months, is an important and healthy readjustment that we needed to undergo for the long-term sustainability of our industry

What characteristics do you look for when acquiring development sites?

We have a robust acquisitions process that places significant importance on brand attributes rather than just commercial viability. Of the 200 commercially attractive sites that I have been presented to buy over the last six months, only two met our stringent criteria.

The site must have convenient transport links with accessibility to the city; It must have the ability to integrate with and enhance the local community, and it must lend itself to the creation of a community neighbourhood that can sustain every amenity and luxury that
residents have come to expect from Pace.

We don’t waiver on these commitments to amenity and lifestyle depending on the site’s location – we deliver to the same standard in every location we develop in.

Pace of Carnegie is a perfect example of this, in an area where many competitive developers have
opted to scale down their offering to a suburban location.

By contrast, we saw an opportunity to elevate the standard of development in this area and have experienced incredible success with this strategy, selling out two thirds of this project within our first
month of launching.

Pace of Carnegie. Image: Pace Development Group

What are your expectations for the Pace brand over the next 5 years?

Underpinning our reputation for architecturally considered, quality developments, has always been our brand – which is synonymous for client care, accountability on our promises and a long-term investment into the developments we deliver. Every person in our
business is fluent in our brand values and how they are each individually responsible for delivering on them.

Over the next five years, I see this position in the marketplace strengthening as we invest further into initiatives like digital connectivity that improves how our residents engage with each other, how we respond to their needs, and how we can continue to maintain and
improve their properties.

I see property purchasers becoming increasingly more educated – they demand superior service, visibility into construction processes, and an ongoing dialogue with the developer. We make it our priority to exceed these expectations and evolve with the needs of the market.

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