ICON Development's Cameron Shekleton speaks to Urban.com.au

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ICON Development's Cameron Shekleton speaks to Urban.com.au

Cameron Shekleton, Development Manager at ICON Developments recently provided Urban.com.au with some insights into working at ICON, what's in store for the development industry, some of the challenges the industry is facing, the dangers of over regulating design through planning and some hot tips for aspiring development managers.

Urban.com.au: What do you enjoy about working at ICON Developments?

Cameron Shekleton: We’re a small team and we work on an array of projects. It allows you to be involved in all facets of the development process – from acquisitions, to funding, design, marketing and sales. Even if you aren’t directly looking after an office or commercial project, someone else in the office most likely is. So you’re always up-to-date on the state of the market, new planning applications or hear first-hand leasing deals, rates & incentives that are landing around Victoria. It’s a great opportunity to have consistent exposure across the entire property market.

U: What does a typical working day look like for you?

CS: It’s hard to pin down days as being typical. Generally the development managers at ICON are across a couple of projects and looking at acquisitions when time permits.

This means you could be sitting in a construction meeting in the morning, reviewing plants with landscape gardeners at lunch and talking to banks about funding for a project. I guess you could describe the typical day as extremely varied.

U: Where do you see the development industry heading?

CS: With investors moving away from off the plan property, developers have had to really hone in on the owner occupier market. This push has already been really positive in the marketplace.

Purchasers are more discerning and developers are being driven to meet increasing expectations. I think this trend will continue, leading to better development outcomes for the owners and community.

Ideally this would help remove some of the common misconceptions and stigma around apartment living in Australia that come about from poor developments.

U: What are the most exciting trends happening in the industry right now?

CS: I think the downsizer market is a really exciting space right now. They’re unique in their requirements – we’re seeing bedrooms being replaced with study’s and second sitting rooms.

Living and entertaining spaces expanded and rows upon rows of shelves to house a lifetime collection of books. The buyers certainly know what they like, with years of experience in their old homes, their views on materials & functionality are unwavering.

I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in our George + Powlett apartment project in East Melbourne. With only 12 apartments, it has been a personal journey with each of the purchasers, so far as being on a first name basis with all. Each purchaser has had a unique set of requirements and they’re all approaching apartment living a little differently as a result.

ICON Development's Cameron Shekleton speaks to Urban.com.au
George & Powlett in East Melbourne comprises 12 apartments and is currently under construction.

U: What would you like to see change in the Australian development industry?

CS: I think we’re seeing planning dictate too heavily the architecture of new buildings. There are thousands upon thousands of examples of beautiful buildings throughout the world, but almost none would hold up when reviewed against local planning guidelines in Australia – none of these buildings would be approved.

Assessing architectural merit is obviously subjective and there definitely needs to be some form of regulation to create some objectivity when assessing planning applications. But the current tick box approach in assessment planning applications is preventing good buildings from being built that will have a positive impact to the Melbourne skyline.

If nothing changes, we’ll continue with the ‘wedding cake’ designs we see everywhere.

U: How do you ensure ICON Developments’ design-led philosophy is embodied in all projects?

CS: I thinks this comes from everyone within ICON. All the development managers bounce ideas from one another, talk about lessons learned, both good and bad. This means that each project builds on the project before. We also ask ourselves an important question “would we want to live here?”

So we work towards making sure that answer is always yes, meaning design is at the forefront of every decision in the process.

U: Any tips for aspiring development managers?

CS: I came from a construction background, working as a project manager. The skill set I developed during that time represented only a portion of the skill set needed to be a development manager.

There is no routine way to become a development manager, so I think you have to recognise what strengths you can bring to the table (whether you were an architect, planner, project manager, etc.) and use those skills whilst working and building up the greater knowledge needed to be a more rounded development manager.

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