The Boutique Approach to Project Management


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-By John Boley

Tucked away in North Sydney is Restifa & Partners, a development-management and project-management specialist that Sam and Simon Restifa like to call a “boutique” company. It’s small in size – less than a dozen staff – but big in scope, with more than $200 million in current projects via subcontractors and consultants.

The company is 30 years old, founded by Sam, who among other things pioneered the Marketplace concept with Woolworths, rolling out 11 centres in the 1990s at a cost of $600m; developed regional, sub regional and community shopping centres across Australia’s eastern seaboard; helped coordinate Sydney airport’s retail component – 145 tenancies; and converged bulky goods and general retail design to create Supa Centre, Castle Hill, setting a benchmark for bulky goods retailing in Australia.

Simon joined Sam in 2005 and has worked as a project manager in a number of retail shopping centre developments and refurbishments, including Armidale Plaza, NSW ($18m), Bathurst City Centre, NSW ($36m) and Woolworths Tura Beach (on the Sapphire Coast, $12m).

According to Simon, Restifa & Partners does much more than ‘just’ retailing, “but Sam’s background in retail made him virtually an expert in that sector and that’s what the company became known for.” Additionally there is, says Simon, an ever-increasing call for project management. “Since the global financial crisis hit retail, we have found that a lot of other sectors that didn’t previously look towards project management have now started calling us.”

There was a time when projects were managed but there was no ‘project manager’ as such. “Traditionally the lead architect took that role – he was responsible for managing all the sub-consultants and ensuring all the designs were coordinated as well as collating tender documents and tendering the project.” But with the emergence of other forms of contracting such as design-and-construct or guaranteed maximum price, he explains, it put the architect in a position of conflict and he started to require “someone else to be acting as a project manager, looking after the project through the pre-construction phase and the post-construction phase. The other element of it is that financiers started to get more savvy and realise that project managers would control budgets a lot better.”

Simon agrees that his company is well-placed with its background. “There’s not many companies in Sydney that have the years of experience that Restifa & Partners have – we’ve been around since the very beginning of the project management movement – it was probably a good move, going from architecture into specialist project management at the time the firm did.”

Restifa & Partners has worked with most of Australia’s big retailing names, including AMP, Stockland, Abacus and Henroth as well as Woolworths, which has been revisiting the Marketplace idea and planning new outlets. “Over the last year or so they have been trying to redefine what those new centres will look like,” says Simon. “We have been able to work with them on those issues, and assist the architect they are working with, in developing what they call style guides to what should be done and what should not be included in terms of retail property development.”

The secret of success for Restifa & Partners, says Simon, is in attention to detail and ensuring clients receive personal attention all the time. “Our open communication philosophy ensures that potential conflicts are resolved without undue acrimony. We value our relationships and, on behalf of our clients, work hard to maintain them.”

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July 14, 2020, 10:00 AM AEST