107 Aerodrome Road

Hindmarsh Property Services

18 Nov 107 Aerodrome Road

In the early days of Hindmarsh Property Services I was taking on a fair bit of project management work.

There just had to be a better use for the site at the corner of Aerodrome Road and Second Avenue. For years the popular TexMex Restaurant had operated from the old fibro house, but this had been closed. A quick search revealed that the site was owned by Peter Sun and his family and that the car yard next door was also on the same title. I knew Peter reasonably well through other business dealings over the years. He told me that he was having trouble with squatters in the house. Not being content with a roof over their heads, they were smashing the property around and the Police had been called several times by concerned neighbours.

I arranged for the house to be demolished and then, at Peter’s request, went to work on a detailed analysis of the redevelopment potential. This started with some preliminary single line concept drawings at 1:500 scale to look at the alternative ways of developing the site. The obvious uses were shops, offices, or a combination of both. Development at that stage could be to a maximum of 3 stories. Concept drawings ranged from a full basement car park under shops on the ground with offices above, to a single level development of just shops.

Armed with the concept drawings I then modelled each of the alternatives through my feasibility spreadsheet that I had developed whilst consulting to a developer in the previous years. I was surprised at how well the single level development stacked up against the other alternatives. The achievable ground floor rents were much higher than first floor rates. The low returning upper level triggered an expensive basement car park. An intuitive perspective supported these findings with no vacancies of quality ground floor retail space, but some roll-over happening with upstairs offices in the area.

I also modelled a maximised ground level office against the retail use. The car parking requirement for office was less. There was little likelihood however of achieving the rents needed from office uses to make this viable. Why wouldn’t such an office use go to the cheaper rents of upper levels and how many would want to look out onto Aerodrome Road when there were more attractive outlooks around the Maroochy river.

The next step was to work up 1:100 single line drawings to develop the design further. There had recently been a change to the Town Planning Scheme which effectively divided the then Maroochy Shire into precincts. Our site was part of the Aerodrome Road Precinct. Conventional wisdom of the time was that carparks were paramount and had to be visible and accessible from the main frontage. The new precinct guidelines were rightly opposed to this misconception. Buildings in such busy locations need an active frontage. The new rules required there to be glass on at least 60% of the major street boundary. This suited my ideas for the site just fine.

Being a corner site there was little chance that Main Roads would allow access from Aerodrome Road. That would be crazy anyway when there was a quiet side street which was far safer. Access into the shops from the rear carpark became another part of the puzzle to solve. Again conventional wisdom of the time was that customers should walk out of the carpark onto the side street and then around to the front doors of the businesses. No retailer wanted to have a till set up at the front and back of their shop to cover the back door as well.

My experience of dealing with retail tenants over many years had given me a valuable insight into what they like. They wanted exposure and lots of it. They absolutely loved the exposure that a corner location gives them. A breezeway through the building was the answer. It afforded great access from the carpark to the leased space and effectively created a second corner shaped building on the same site.

From there the design fell into place very quickly as it became an exercise of balancing lettable area with the resultant demands for carparking and the minimum landscaping required. Once I was happy with the preliminary design I made three phone calls to businesses that I thought may work well in the building and location. The first was to an existing fruit and veg retail/ wholesaler, the second to a 7 day convenience store and the third to a baker. Three out of three were keen. This was going to be easy – or so I thought at the time.

Over the next few weeks I had a pre-lodgement meeting with Council and chatted with a traffic engineer whom we would need to assist to argue the case over road network infrastructure charges.

The Council were very happy with the design. I knew I had ticked virtually all the boxes with regard to the precinct requirements. Frankly with my focus on this project at the time I think I knew the new planning scheme provisions better than they did.

The project was definitely developing a heartbeat of it’s own as we submitted the material change of use application and had the Solicitor prepare the agreement to lease documentation.

Unfortunately the fruit shops commitment began to wane. It was about that time the big supermarkets started moving into fresh fruit and veg in earnest. The independent operators were starting to realise they could not compete and over the next few years all but a few would disappear. The rot was also setting in with the convenience operator.

When the MCU approval came through it was with road network infrastructure charges which were considered unjust. It was commonly believed at the time that the system the Council used for calculating these charges was flawed. We eventually were granted an amended approval at a fraction of the originally required contributions.

Finding replacement tenants at that time was proving difficult. We canvassed hundreds of prospects but were struggling to find interest from retailers. Eventually we found that the Aerodrome Road Medical Practice was interested in relocating to our new building. Pharmacies just love being next to Doctors, so it wasn’t long before we had both committed to the project on long term leases at an average rental that made it work.

We took the job to a building designer who then worked the drawings up to building application standards and engaged an engineer to do the structural, civil and hydraulics detailed design. A landscape architect was the last consultant on board before submitting for BA.

The project was put out to informal tender before settling on the builder. I supervised the construction and handled all the builders claim.

February of 2003 the tenants settled into the completed building.

From my first discussions with Peter Sun it had taken roughly 3 years to complete the project. Much of that time was taken up with securing the tenants as Peter was adamant that there must be 100% commitment before he would proceed.

I remain extremely proud of the design of this building. It was a project I took on as I started Hindmarsh Property Services whilst I had more time on my hands. By handling so many aspects of the project myself I was able to cement together the knowledge and experience I had gained from my years in the civil engineering, real estate sales and property development fields.

Peter Sun went on to put the completed property with us to manage and has given us his other properties to look after as well.