Highfields – Bridgeman Downs


While the rush is still on to stake a claim in Brisbane’s booming inner-city apartment market, rich seams of development gold also are being mined deep in the city’s suburbs.

Residential infill sites catering for the house-and-land Australian dream have become rare and hotly-contested development nuggets amid the ongoing push for higher density living.

In its third acquisition in as many weeks, rich-lister John Van Lieshout’s Unison Projects has snared a 10.8ha parcel on the city’s northern outskirts in a $19 million deal.

The Super A-Mart discount furniture chain founder’s property and investment company fended off a field of industry heavy-hitters for the infill site at Roghan Road, Bridgeman Downs.

Its latest acquisition boosts Unison’s workbook to six residential subdivision and townhouse development sites around Brisbane — at Oxley, Albany Creek, Griffin, Bridgeman Downs and Sherwood — and as far south as Byron Bay.

Overall, it has almost 600 house lots and more than 100 townhouse sites underway or planned with an end value totalling $200 million-plus.

“We’ve steered away from apartments for two reasons,” Unison’s general manager Jonathan Levy said.

“Land appreciates in value and even townhouses have some land.

“Also, with residential subdivision and townhouse development, it’s much, much harder to reach oversupply.

“But well-serviced infill sites like this one at Bridgeman Downs are rare and there’s a lot of land developers out there — so it’s very competitive.”

Marketing agents Greg Russell and Mark Horgan, of Knight Frank, fielded 75 inquiries for the Roghan Rd property and 25 offers were put on the table from private and institutional buyers.

Mr Russell said it was one of the last development sites available in the area.

“This is a rare parcel that should have been developed 15 years ago,” he said. “It ticked all the boxes, apart from having development approvals.”

Unison’s Shannon Down, who oversees its residential workbook, said the company was planning to lodge a development application with Brisbane City Council next month for a $100 million project comprised of between 140 and 150 lots.

“This is an incredibly rare development opportunity in a proven area,” he said. “Bridgeman Downs is the Rochedale of the north.

“It’s a leafy, well-established and easily accessible suburb that does not have a great deal of new housing coming to the market, which is why we jumped at the chance to acquire it.”

Mr Down said about 20 per cent of the site would be preserved as green space in keeping with the area’s character.

Among its other recent acquisitions, Unison has put its foot on the former Hawkins Garden Centre at Albany Creek. It is planning a $33 million townhouse project on the 3.2ha site, which it purchased for $3.4 million.

Meanwhile, it also has been granted council approval for a 29-lot residential subdivision of a 2.5ha development site fronting the Brisbane River at Magazine St, Sherwood. It paid $5.5 million for the holding, which was formerly home to the Alan Fletcher Research Station, which played a pivotal role in stopping Queensland’s prickly pear cactus plague in the 1920s and 30s.