We catch up with ICON’s development manager, Cameron Shekleton, to find out his favourite features of George + Powlett and what downsizers are looking for in luxury apartment design.
Tell us about the East Melbourne market and why you chose the area?
We saw a unique opportunity to secure a north facing corner block in one of Melbourne’s most tightly held suburbs. The demographic of East Melbourne dictates that there is a need for luxury, single level, low-maintenance apartments as downsizers find the double and triple level terrace houses less than ideal for their changing lifestyles.
The people moving into George + Powlett are majority locals who love the area, but don’t want the work, maintenance and stress that comes with owning a period home in the area.
There is a noticeable shift seeing developers moving towards boutique multi-residential projects, why is that?
The apartment buyer today is far more discerning than previous. Many have rented apartments and know what they like and don’t like.
As they move into the buyer category from the renter category, their expectations are pushed onto the developer, and it’s up to us to meet market demand.
Generally, they want to live with other owners, in smaller apartment blocks where there are less strangers, and in buildings that have a sense of community. This dictates the size of the development and the size of the apartments.
There is a trend towards retirees downsizing to inner-city suburbs, why is that?
The proximity to restaurants, public transport, sporting precincts, and galleries all make inner-city suburbs, like East Melbourne, a very desirable location for downsizers.
Downsizers (generally grandparents or soon to be) want to be in a location close to their children and grandchildren, that offers convenience, simplicity and good design.
Some people believe downsizing means skimping on quality materials and finishes, what do you say to that?
The biggest hurdle to overcome with the downsizer tag is space and size. Most people aren’t fluent in reading architect’s drawings and conceiving how the space will feel.
Downsizing has a stigma that you’ll move into a cramped box, which certainly isn’t the case. For instance, in George + Powlett a two-bedroom apartment is comparable to the size of two three-bedroom apartments in an ordinary development. Their three-metre high ceilings feel open and generous, and the apartments also incorporate features such as storage rooms, powder rooms and second bathrooms, which all give home-style qualities. It makes the jump to an apartment far easier and more palatable.
What were the most important elements to you when developing the project?
The materiality of each component used in the building was probably the most important element we had to consider. There were no lightweight external elements used, the facade is rendered and incorporates exposed raw concrete, steel balustrades and planter boxes. All these materials were chosen to stand the test of time to the point that the architect, Powell & Glenn, designed the building to get better with age.
Another example is the internal walls of apartments are all insulated even when they don’t need to be. Natural stone benches, ceramic and glass tiles and tap fittings used within the apartment are all injected into the finished product to quash common misconceptions about apartments.
From a design perspective, what is your favorite feature of George + Powlett?
For me it has to be the façade and structure. Rarely do you take finished photos of developments and have trouble telling the photo from the original render.
The façade looks incredible, even better than the architect and developer had ever imagined – which I think is a testament to the resilience of both parties. It was recognised early on that delivering this building without the slightest compromise was paramount to its success and something that ICON always strives to do
Professionally, what did you enjoy most about working on this project?
Sometimes developers can be seen to be removing neighbourhood characteristics when they knock down old buildings and create new ones. This project was rare in that the local community were really supportive of the development, as the old yellow brick hotel sitting on the site did not complement the fabric of East Melbourne.
This sentiment was further reinforced by the fact that we did not need to go to VCAT to secure the permit, although it was within a strong heritage precinct.