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Buxton building Melbourne’s next boom suburb from the ground up

The Australian, Thursday 10 July 2014. 

BRW rich lister Michael Buxton has a pretty good track record at picking Melbourne’s future boom suburbs.

The company that he founded with his brother Andrew in 1995, MAB Corporation, was one of the first groups to develop apartments in the now gentrified bayside suburbs of Port Melbourne and Docklands.

Melbourne property runs in Buxton’s blood. In the 1850s his ancestors WP Buckhurst and JR Buxton subdivided and sold property in Port Melbourne, South Melbourne and Albert Park.

“And that’s really where the family worked and lived for generations; we were all brought up in Brighton and were close to the sea,” Buxton says.

“When you take my kids into (account) there’s been six generations that have been in the same industry.”

Buxton’s MAB Corporation is building what he thinks will be the next boom suburb: a masterplanned city called Merrifield that is being developed on a 1000ha block about 30km from the Melbourne CBD.

The $5 billion project eventuallywill have 4000 new homes, anemployment base of about 20,000 and a master-planned citycentre that will start in 2018, Buxton says.

“Our long-term vision is to create the CBD hub of the north in a 24-hour city,” Buxton says.

“If you’re able to picture 20 years in (the future) we would hope that it has a university, hospital, private and public schools, sporting facilities and office buildings,” he adds.

About 200 homes have sold in the development’s first stage of marketing. Buxton’s earlier company Becton Property Group, started with fellow BRW rich-lister and property magnate Max Beck in 1976, grew during the next two decades from a small construction business to a national and diversified development group completing $4 billion worth of projects.

Both Buxton and his brother, Andrew, retired from their respective careers in 1995 and eventually decided to go into business together, creating MAB, with the name an acronym for Michael and Andrew Buxton. Its first development was an apartment project in Port Melbourne, called The Anchorage, where an industrial site was rezoned and a 600-apartment project developed.

“That was the very start of the (apartment) development in Port Melbourne,” Buxton says.

“We were definitely the first and that began the huge wave of conversions from industrial to residential.

“We saw it as Melbourne was growing and needed to change. (Most of) the industrial was redundant.”

The group began to explore other avenues of development, and have completed industrial, office and shopping centre projects.

Residential projects remain its backbone, Buxton says, comprising about two-thirds of the company’s revenue. In 2002, the group bought a site at the then desolate harbourfront in Docklands.

It was the first to market apartments at the precinct, Buxton says, and eventually will complete 5000 units. MAB has built restaurants and bars at the precinct, as well as an office building and two serviced apartment towers.

Despite pessimism from economists about an apartment glut in Docklands, Buxton says that the area will never be overdeveloped.

“Docklands is definitely not oversupplied because there’s a limit on how much you can build,” he says.

“If you look at (the apartments in our development) the vacancy rates are about 1 per cent.”

MAB also has built nearly 80 per cent of another masterplanned community at University Hill, 35km from the CBD. While the government wanted to open the land up for employment purposes, Buxton says the company was convinced that a residential component was key to achieving that.

“Modern employment today is not just factories, it’s actually retail, office, industrial, and therefore you need housing.

“We convinced them that you had to have all segments going in one area and we actually provedthat because no one was building any office buildings in these northern suburbs of Melbourne, but I think we’re building our fifth one.”

The Property Council of Australia named University Hill as the 2011 best master-planned community.

There are already up to 1000 people living at the area, Buxton says.

While there appear to be too many apartments being built in the Melbourne CBD, it is balanced by people wanting to live in apartments instead of houses, he says.

“What we don’t understand, and what the economists don’t understand, is that there is a change of trend of the way people are living.”

BRW rich lister Michael Buxton
has a pretty good track record at
picking Melbourne’s future boom
suburbs.
The company that he founded
with his brother Andrew in 1995,
MAB Corporation, was one of the
first groups to develop apartments
in the now gentrified bayside
suburbs of Port Melbourne
and Docklands.
Melbourne property runs in
Buxton’s blood. In the 1850s his
ancestors WP Buckhurst and JR
Buxton subdivided and sold property
in Port Melbourne, South
Melbourne and Albert Park.
“And that’s really where the
family worked and lived for generations;
we were all brought up in
Brighton and were close to the
sea,” Buxton says.
“When you take my kids into
(account) there’s been six generations
that have been in the same
industry.”
Buxton’s MAB Corporation is
building what he thinks will be the
next boom suburb: a masterplanned
city called Merrifield that
is being developed on a 1000ha
block about 30km from the Melbourne
CBD.
The $5 billion project eventually
will have 4000 new homes, an
employment base of about
20,000 and a master-planned city
centre that will start in 2018, Buxton
says.
“Our long-term vision is to
create the CBD hub of the north
in a 24-hour city,” Buxton says.
“If you’re able to picture 20
years in (the future) we would
hope that it has a university, hospital,
private and public schools,
sporting facilities and office buildings,”
he adds.
About 200 homes have sold in
the development’s first stage of
marketing.
Buxton’s earlier company
Becton Property Group, started
with fellow BRW rich-lister and
property magnate Max Beck in
1976, grew during the next two
decades from a small construction
business to a national and
diversified development group
completing $4 billion worth of
projects.
Both Buxton and his brother,
Andrew, retired from their respective
careers in 1995 and
eventually decided to go into business
together, creating MAB, with
the name an acronym for Michael
and Andrew Buxton.
Its first development was an
apartment project in Port Melbourne,
called The Anchorage,
where an industrial site was rezoned
and a 600-apartment project
developed.
“That was the very start of the
(apartment) development in Port
Melbourne,” Buxton says.
“We were definitely the first
and that began the huge wave of
conversions from industrial to
residential.
“We saw it as Melbourne was
growing and needed to change.
(Most of) the industrial was
redundant.”
The group began to explore
other avenues of development,
and have completed industrial,
office and shopping centre projects.
Residential projects remain
its backbone, Buxton says, comprising
about two-thirds of the
company’s revenue.
In 2002, the group bought a
site at the then desolate harbourfront
in Docklands.
It was the first to market apartments
at the precinct, Buxton
says, and eventually will complete
5000 units. MAB has built restaurants
and bars at the precinct, as
well as an office building and two
serviced apartment towers.
Despite pessimism from economists
about an apartment glut in
Docklands, Buxton says that the
area will never be overdeveloped.
“Docklands is definitely not
oversupplied because there’s a
limit on how much you can build,”
he says.
“If you look at (the apartments
in our development) the vacancy
rates are about 1 per cent.”
MAB also has built nearly
80 per cent of another masterplanned
community at University
Hill, 35km from the CBD.
While the government wanted
to open the land up for employment
purposes, Buxton says the
company was convinced that a residential
component was key to
achieving that.
“Modern employment today is
not just factories, it’s actually retail,
office, industrial, and therefore
you need housing.
“We convinced them that you
had to have all segments going in
one area and we actually proved
that because no one was building
any office buildings in these northern
suburbs of Melbourne, but I
think we’re building our fifth one.”
The Property Council of Australia
named University Hill as the
Copyright Agency licensed copy
(www.copyright.com.au)
The Australian, Australia
10 Jul 2014, by Gr Eg Brown
Property, page 30 – 786.00 cm²
National – circulation 116,854 (MTWTF)
ID 282504723 BRIEF MABCORP INDEX 1 PAGE 1 of 3