Developing Melbourne

Evolve Development

Ashley Williams is one of three Directors for Evolve Development. Established in 2003 by Mr Williams, Evolve’s focus is on unique, innovative projects. Situated in Melbourne, the company’s strategy for success in this competitive marketplace is two-pronged: Evolve builds quality residential developments in trendy inner city suburbs and also produces luxurious housing estates in Melbourne’s growth corridors. This has enabled the company to service a niche market and to build a strong reputation in the industry as a competent and innovative property developer.

Mr Williams himself is a former civil engineer who started out as a development manager with the MAB Corporation. He oversaw the construction of 800 apartments in the Docklands redevelopment project, an experience which taught him much of what he needed in order to branch out on his own. Ashley approached Ron Walker and in 2003, Evolve Development was created. Ron was one of the founding Directors of Hudson Conway, responsible for the construction of the $1.5 billion Crown Casino Complex in 1995. The third Director is Kris Daff, who joined the team in 2007. Kris has held senior positions in the Docklands authority and Sunland Group. With these three at the helm, Evolve is carving out a niche for itself within Melbourne’s competitive property industry.

Evolve Development has enjoyed success from the beginning, as evidenced by projects such as the Mulgrave Business Park, completed in 2006. Even on the heels of the GFC, the company has continued to produce successful, profitable projects. As Mr Williams explains, “These projects have given us the confidence to go ahead and proceed with a number of new projects. The past three years have empowered us with a healthy cash flow to embark on larger scale projects.” Evolve Development currently has 580 apartments under construction across two inner city developments and a pipeline of more than 3,000 residential lots across a number of new communities located in the outer urban fringe of Melbourne’s CBD. It is easy to see why Evolve’s portfolio – and its profile in the industry – continues to grow.

Initially, Evolve Development’s focus was on inner city and city fringe apartments, but it has diversified to include growth corridor land estates, more traditional subdivisions catering largely to families. Evolve has its sights aimed squarely at Melbourne, having built up a solid understanding of the local market over the years. “We are very disciplined and very focused on Melbourne,” explains Mr Williams. “All of our projects are in Melbourne, and expansion is not our priority… We understand the Melbourne market and have taken time to establish our business with a long term view of Melbourne’s potential for growth. Remaining focused on the Melbourne market has also allowed us to establish long lasting relationships with our purchasers.” Accordingly, Evolve takes a boutique approach to development, designing each project with client needs and the local landscape top of mind.

Always a factor, of course, is affordability. Evolve Development does not focus its efforts at the top end, but rather aims to create beautiful, accessible and timeless apartments at a range of price points. An Evolve residential development, for example, will include apartments in different configurations (one bedroom, one bedroom plus study, two bedrooms) to appeal to a diverse range of buyers. The Guilfoyle, situated in the centre of Melbourne’s arts and entertainment sector, boasts a range of mid-level to higher end units, starting at around $350,000 through to larger two bedroom, two bathroom apartments at $750,000.

Designed by SJB Architects, The Guilfoyle will have 353 apartments and four retail tenancies on the ground floor. Situated on an ideal corner site, opposite the Botanical Gardens, The Guilfoyle will be a true lifestyle experience. “What we are really offering,” says Mr Williams, “is a luxury hotel feel in a boutique apartment near the fringe of the city, and near local amenities that Melbourne finds so attractive.” When completed the structure will climb to 21 levels, and boast a pool, gym and residents’ lounge. Designed to blend seamlessly into the Melbourne skyline, The Guilfoyle is on target for completion in April of 2013.

Every new project is a learning experience for Evolve Development. “The Guilfoyle won’t be ready until next year,” Mr Williams explains, “but in previous buildings we do an extensive follow-up on who moves into different apartments, we evaluate the feedback from residents regarding the internal functionality and design, and assess the daily operations within each building. We feed this into the design process for our next project and ensure we continue to look at different ways to provide the best possible building amenity for our residents to enjoy.” The Guilfoyle is currently 99 per cent pre-sold. Sales began at the start of 2010 and apartments were 80 per cent sold within five to six months. That is a very strong response in the market, and a validation of the model and product that Evolve has been producing. Such a response indicates that Evolve’s designs are in high demand. The proven track record from Evolve Development also provides a high level of financial integrity to project funders, meaning there is no risk a project will not proceed to completion.

Who does Evolve Development look to when it needs to complete a project? “Generally we tender most projects out to a range of builders, but we obviously pre-select the builders who have expertise and competency in the particular size of project that we are looking to do. Generally, we get to a preferred shortlist of two builders who we get into more detailed negotiations.” The company also looks to builders and architects who can make Evolve’s focus on innovation come to life. Evolve aims to maximise liveable space within each dwelling, and continually explores intelligent interior layouts and configurations. Environmentally Sustainable Design initiatives are another key area of focus for Evolve. Whether it is harvesting rainwater for toilet flushing or landscaping irrigation, gas boosted solar hot water, or solar-powered lighting for common areas, Evolve Development considers environmentally sustainable innovation “a principle that we build into all projects right from the early phases,” says Mr Williams.

Evolve’s success can be attributed in part to its flat management structure. The Directors of the business are all very hands-on in the day-to-day operations of the business. Accessible and in touch, they can make decisions and move on opportunities quickly. Mr Williams also credits the company’s energetic and motivated staff, which includes specialist consultant teams who are all highly knowledgeable in their fields.

Over the next eight years, Evolve Development is looking at completing four substantial projects whose value will total somewhere in the area of $1.2 billion. These include Summerhill in Melbourne’s northern growth corridor, and Waterline Place located in one of Melbourne’s premier sea side suburbs, Williamstown. Evolve is looking forward to responding to Melbourne’s ongoing evolution and to the changing demands of one of the world’s most liveable cities. “The future looks bright for Evolve Development,” says Mr Williams. “Melbourne is a great city, a great place to bring up kids, build a career, start a family, or retire; it’s got it all covered.” To evolve is to grow, and Evolve Development is up for the challenge. The city of Melbourne can only benefit.

Home Automation

Call it ‘domotics,’ and you are likely to receive a blank stare, but refer to it as ‘smart home’ or ‘home automation,’ and you will get a nod of acknowledgement. For the past few years, consumers have heard the word ‘smart’ attached to countless products and services, from food and drink to snacks like popcorn and mobile phones, which no one seems to refer to as a ‘cellphone’ anymore. Yet what, exactly, constitutes ‘smart’?

January 27, 2021, 2:19 AM AEDT