Dubbo Photo News & Dubbo Weekender

Rising in the east

The massive growth of east Dubbo is not restricted to one particular area or aspect; with residential property, business development, aged care and education sectors all expanding at a rapid rate.

Areas such as Keswick Estate, Southlakes and the BlueRidge Business Park are all quickly expanding, with buyers snapping up land packages almost as soon as they become available.

In residential property terms, Dubbo Regional Council Environmental Services director Melissa Watkins said the spike is the after-effect of a building bottleneck which had previously been preventing construction.

“I think the key thing behind it was that we had a lot of pent-up demand for land and now there are new lots everywhere being put up. There is a lot of building activity.”

Council’s commercial facilities manager Simon Tratt agreed, saying that Council is developing 30 to 40 lots at a time which are selling off the plan.

“I think there was a lot of unmet demand for vacant land in Dubbo for quite a few years. There was a surge of big scale developers and Southlakes was developed and amped up. Since (property developer) Maas Group came along, there’s a lot happening there. Keswick is also moving fast.”

Council still owns 165ha in Keswick Estate where the latest release will be ready for development in February. By June next year, there will be more homes being built.

“Most of the time, it’s individuals buying land off us and then finding their own builder. There are some also buyers buying land for investment.”

Mr Tratt said the development is being driven by organic growth in the city.

“There’s not any major businesses that have moved to Dubbo but things like the extension of the hospital, aged care and expansion of businesses that are employing an additional one to five people.”

The bulk of buyers purchasing Council land at the moment are first home owners, Mr Tratt said.

“We’ve got 10 first home buyers out of 18. Many people are new to Dubbo and new to Australia in some cases.”

Mr Tratt has been in his current role for five years and has previously engaged in advertising this vacant land.

“We were actively promoting before this release started selling off the plan – doing radio and website promotion, newspaper advertising and roadside signage.”

With lots priced at $140,000 to $150,000 and house and land packages for $350,000, Mr Tratt said Keswick Estate represents good value for money for potential buyers.

“We’ve tried to make this the best value in Dubbo,” he said. “There’s quite a difference in what’s on offer.”

“They are probably the lowest prices apart from Rosewood Grove (in West Dubbo).”

With these sales, Council is not attempting to have a massive profit margin, but to remain revenue neutral.

“We’re not trying to outcompete, we are happy with sales. We have a social responsibility to cater for the whole community of Dubbo.”

Growth and profitability in this area is not just restricted to new home construction. 

House sales in this area are also booming, with Western Plains Real Estate recently reporting a record price sale for Keswick Estate.

Real estate agent Sonya Hogan confirmed that 34 William Farrer Drive sold for $552,000 on November 11.

“In the last two years, Dubbo has had a huge amount of growth which is good for owners and investors.”

Ms Hogan said the vendors of 34 William Farrer Drive were ecstatic with the record sale of the four bedroom, two bathroom home which also features massive entertaining areas and inground swimming pool.

Maas Group sales coordinator Bill Kelly has been in the industry for many years and described this period as a boom time for Dubbo.

“There’s no doubt about it, there is a housing boom in Dubbo that hasn’t been seen since the 1980s. 

“In the 1980s, the Council could see the opportunity for growth but the land wasn’t available. So Council got into land development to make it affordable for young people to stay in the city.”

The rise of areas such as Keswick Estate are prime examples of the level of Council’s involvement whereas the Maas Group are behind the ongoing development of Southlakes along with burgeoning areas Keswick on the Park and Magnolia Estate.

Although in its early stages, Magnolia Estate is already blossoming, with 200 lots recently sold off the plan.

Meanwhile, Keswick on the Park is a privately-held parcel of land within Keswick Estate which was purchased by the Maas Group a couple of years ago.   

What if offers buyers is a chance for a slice of the real estate pie.

“The area has been made available and affordable to first home buyers and people who are looking to downsize. Two or three of them are investment properties but most are owner occupied.

“All the house and land packages were purchased by first home buyers. They have had the opportunity to get on the property ladder.”

This area is generally more affordable, with three bedroom homes on small blocks selling for up to $380,000.

Southlakes is the group’s original development area, and is described as an area of beauty and prestige.

“Stage 1 of Southlakes was developed by the Stevenson brothers, Brett Harvey and Mark Stanford,” Mr Kelly explained.

“They had a vision to develop the whole area; with cycleways, walkways and waterways.”

That was in 2000 and the group was called Southlands Developments. Fast forward 16 years and the area is now a leafy, picturesque and inviting neighbourhood.

Large homes dominate and some of them are two or three times the size of their Keswick Estate counterparts.

It’s all about catering to lifestyle, Mr Kelly says as he describes how the different stages of life warrant different living arrangements and different house configurations – from house-shares and flats through to sprawling family homes followed by a return to smaller, more manageable accommodation as people grow older.

The Maas Group is assisting some of these different groups and successfully meeting their needs. They have also continued the commitment to high quality urban living established by the original developers.

“Housing reflects different stages of life and all the different lifestyles,” he said. “If the city can provide these options, then we are not relying on a particular housing type.”

Southlakes is meeting those needs, and being pitched as ‘Dubbo’s first and most prestigious land release to offer an idyllic community bordered by beautiful watercourses and parklands.’.

The lakeland area certainly makes it unique and a highly sought-after area.

“It’s something that’s just a bit better, it’s special and if you make something special, people want to be there.”

During the week, the streets where tradespeople congregate to work on these new homes are like ‘George St’, according to Mr Kelly, with up to 55 workers labouring on one site alone.

That in turn has a strong effect on the economy, and is what Mr Kelly describes as the driving force.

“The land is affordable, there’s building materials and the builders are building. We have created a new economic driver for the city.”

The newest part of Southlakes is a gated estate called Lakeview, which features grouped homes with a communal pool, barbecue and clubhouse area.

Mr Kelly has sold 17 of these properties within a week even though development is yet to begin.

“That is a lot of properties,” he said. “But in this climate, it doesn’t blow me away.”

What has prompted this rapid rise in development is twofold.

Firstly, there has been an influx of new people to the city, many of them are new Australians.

“Dubbo’s population growth would have averaged 600 people, and we are certainly seeing a lot of multiculturalism,” Mr Kelly said.

The second driver was a rush to purchase property before changes to the First Home Owner Grant (New Homes) scheme, which dropped from $15,000 to $10,000 at the beginning of 2016.

“That really drove the activity,” Mr Kelly said. “For young people getting into the market, it’s a significant amount of money.”

The sharp increase in development in east Dubbo comes down to desirability.

“It’s close to shopping and schools and it’s a desirable place to live in Dubbo.” 

With continued growth, and plans to continue the parkways and lakeland areas further, it looks like there’s no stopping residential growth east of the city.

“We have a 20 year land bank in Southlakes and we want to make sure that it remains the same high quality as Stage 1.”

Industry has also grown in this area with the BlueRidge Business Park a prime example of massive expansion. More than $28 million has been invested in the park since it started in 2009, and this year, the total number of businesses in the area reached 22. This includes gyms, childcare centres, accountants, solicitors, web designers, eateries, commercial and industrial outlets and government offices.

The park is a partnership between local business TAWK developments and Newcastle-based company Hunter Land. Success lies in having an accessible, flexible location and all the amenities of the CBD.

The park’s management team acknowledged that ‘Dubbo is growing rapidly and so are we.’

“We’re passionate about bringing together complementary businesses, to create a great experience for everyone that works, visits and does business in our park.”

“We have built a great community of businesses: with at least 70+ employees moving to the park in 2016 alone, we are excited to see how our community will expand in the future.”

Partnered with Blueridge Projects, the park also offers full design and construction services with Stages 4, 5 and 6 now open to potential buyers.

Mr Tratt said that where businesses had the opportunity to build at locations that suited their needs, they would continue to relocate. In Dubbo, that has meant a move away from the urban centre towards the fringes of the city where vacant land is available in a so-called ‘doughnut effect.’

“Dubbo is like so many regional cities or country areas where the cost of redevelopment outweighs the cost of a greenfield site.”

Mr Tratt said a new building can be constructed according to the changing needs of the business.

“The size, economic efficiency, the visual appeal. It’s like starting with a blank sheet of paper to develop exactly what they want. In that regard, places like BlueRidge Business Park are starting to gain more traction and the doughnut effect is easy to explain. I can see why people are going to greenfield spaces.”

“East Dubbo is the area where there’s lots happening.”

With their multi-stage development already underway, Dubbo Christian School is ensuring a school for the future amid new buildings, capitalising on existing land and infrastructure all part of the plan.

“The school community will fund projects over the next 20 years,” the school’s business manager Michael Lowbridge said.

“We are keen to bring the community with us and have done extensive consultation with the board, staff and parents.”

The school has also recently purchased more land from Dubbo Regional Council with a view to further expansion in the future.

Nearby, the construction of the Royal Freemasons’ Benevolent Institute Dubbo Masonic Village will add 70 aged care places to the city when it is completed early in the New Year.

“The construction of the new village is proceeding well and we are delighted with how it is coming together. It is expected to be finished by March 2017,” the organisation’s chief marketing officer Alana Parker said.

The facility features 70 single rooms, each with private en suite, a secure area for dementia patients, free WiFi, a hairdressing salon, café, chapel, state of the art kitchen, medical consultation room as well as a community and masonic centre and landscaped gardens. 

Across town, on the north-eastern edge of the city, Charles Sturt University is also busy doing renovations during the student break. Campus Development Manager Bart Sykes confirmed that the Learning Commons building is being transformed into more of a student hub, which will be accessible around the clock.

“There is a lot happening in the main building at the moment, with the overall emphasis being for that area to become more of the heart of the campus,” he said.