The strip gets a brand new vibe

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Rear View - By LAURA CENCIGH

YOU can al­most smell money in the main ur­ban hubs of the Gold Coast - or at least get a strong whiff of con­crete and steel. Be­hind each crane pok­ing through the city sky­line is an an­nounce­ment of yet an­other hefty in­vest­ment into a lux­ury ho­tel, apart­ment block or leisure de­vel­op­ment.

The last three years alone have seen the con­struc­tion of the soar­ing Q1 apart­ment re­sort, Cir­cle on Cav­ill res­i­den­tial and leisure com­plex, and Chevron Re­nais­sance tow­ers at Surfers Par­adise - just to name a few.

One- by- one, the tacky lega­cies of the 80s tourist boom are be­ing razed and re­placed by th­ese sta­teof- the- art sky­scrapers.

Most re­cently, the old Dol­phin Ar­cade has made way for the con­struc­tion of Rap­tis Group’s Hil­ton Surfers Par­adise Ho­tel and Res­i­dences.

The dual tower, $ 700 mil­lion de­vel­op­ment will house ap­prox­i­mately 170 lux­ury ho­tel rooms and 340 apart­ments.

Nearby, Ju­niper Group is pre­par­ing the foun­da­tions of the $ 850 mil­lion, 77- storey Soul apart­ments on the for­mer Rap­tis Plaza site.

On the theme park front, Mac­quarie Leisure con­tin­ues to in­vest tens of mil­lions of dol­lars in new rides at Dream­world and White­Wa­ter World, as does Warner in its four theme parks.

Gold Coast tourism spokesman, Ben Pole, says the will­ing­ness of high- profile de­vel­op­ers to throw their money at the Gold Coast speaks vol­umes about the re­gion’s prom­ise.

We’re re­ally com­mand­ing some re­spect for th­ese large na­tion­als and multi- na­tion­als to be in­vest­ing so much into in­fra­struc­ture in the com­mer­cial heart,’’ he says. ‘‘ Just in com­mer­cial de­vel­op­ment there’s $ 66 bil­lion be­ing in­jected over 2007 and 2008 on the Gold Coast.’’

Surfers Par­adise, Broad­beach and the busi­ness dis­trict of South­port are at the re­ceiv­ing end of most of the cash­flow. ‘‘ There has been a real change to the face of Surfers,’’ Mr Pole says. ‘‘ It’s a precinct which used to be pre­dom­i­nately sou­venir shops and T- shirt shops be­ing trans­formed into high- end fash­ion brands and ex­cep­tional re­tail out­lets.

Then we have Broad­beach - we’ve got th­ese two cos­mopoli­tan cen­tres ad­ja­cent to each other.’’

Fur­ther feed­ing the cos­mopoli­tan feel is the grow­ing res­i­den­tial pop­u­la­tion within the city cen­tre.

Ac­cord­ing to KPMG’s 2007 Pop­u­la­tion Growth Re­port, the Gold Coast ex­pe­ri­enced a net pop­u­la­tion in­crease of 17,374 over 12 months to 507,439 per­ma­nent res­i­dents as of June 30, 2006, mak­ing it the fastest- grow­ing re­gion in Aus­tralia.

As di­rec­tor of Pa­cific Lifestyle Prop­erty, Luke Wool­lard han­dles sales for many pres­ti­gious Gold Coast de­vel­op­ments. He says a large pro­por­tion of their lux­ury apart­ment pur­chasers are sub­ur­ban down­siz­ers: They have sold their fam­ily homes, done well for them­selves and are look­ing for some­thing more lux­u­ri­ous.’’ While pri­mar­ily Queens­lan­ders, there are a fair few in­ter­state pur­chasers, par­tic­u­larly those re­lo­cat­ing from Vic­to­ria. Many of the de­vel­op­ments are also at­tract­ing over­seas pur­chasers, es­pe­cially from the UK, Dubai, South Africa, Asia and New Zealand.

As the South East Asia re­gion con­tin­ues to boom, with the Gold Coast be­ing the jewel in Aus­tralia’s crown they are not only com­ing for hol­i­days and leisure stays, but that’s also be­ing fol­lowed by in­vest­ment,’’ Mr Pole says.

With the growth in its ur­ban res­i­den­tial pop­u­la­tion, Gold Coast de­vel­op­ers are see­ing the value in in­clud­ing a res­i­den­tial com­po­nent in new ho­tels and com­mer­cial spa­ces.

On top of their lux­u­ri­ous de­sign and fix­tures, th­ese ho­tel con­dos and re­sort- style apart­ments of­fer per­ma­nent res­i­dents ac­cess to ser­vices such as valet park­ing, house­keep­ing and even ho­tel meals de­liv­ered to their apart­ment.

The speedy up­take of apart­ments in the Hil­ton is typ­i­cal of that across the board.

Since the first stage of the de­vel­op­ment was launched late last year, sales have al­ready reached $ 120 mil­lion, with prices for one- bed­room and twobed­room apart­ments start­ing at $ 628,000 and $ 718,000 re­spec­tively.

And, un­like 10- 15 years ago when pri­vate­ly­owned apart­ments were largely used for hol­i­day rentals, 75 per cent of the Hil­ton apart­ment pur­chasers in­tend to be owner- oc­cu­piers.

Niecon’s Or­a­cle is also be­ing speed­ily snapped up.

To be built at Broad­beach, it will in­clude around 500 res­i­den­tial apart­ments, com­mer­cial of­fices and shops.

Hun­dreds have al­ready been sold, with prices rang­ing from $ 680,000 for one- bed­room plus study apart­ments, through to $ 1,905,000 for three­bed­room ‘‘ sky homes’’.

But Mr Wool­lard says not ev­ery­one likes the idea of liv­ing in a ho­tel: ‘‘ There are far more exclusive res­i­den­tial- style apart­ments com­ing up now. ‘‘ We’re see­ing more small and bou­tique- style de­vel­op­ments. ‘‘ Those with 15 or as lit­tle as seven apart­ments in the de­vel­op­ment have cer­tainly be­come more com­mon, par­tic­u­larly on the south­ern Gold Coast.’’

Ivory Burleigh Beach, for ex­am­ple, has only 13 apart­ments over 10 lev­els. Nir­vana at Kirra Beach is a lit­tle larger, with 60 apart­ments span­ning its 15 lev­els.

Of course, with the greater ex­clu­siv­ity comes an even greater price tag.

A two- bed­room apart­ment at Nir­vana start from $ 1,195,000, while a three- bed­room fetches up­wards of $ 3,540,000.

As build­ings - and their prices - soar ever- more sky­ward, Mr Pole de­nies the Gold Coast will be­come an ex­clu­sively high- end des­ti­na­tion: One of the val­ues of the Gold Coast is the di­ver­sity. It’s not go­ing to stick with the trashy look and feel of the Gold Coast 10 years ago but will main­tain that abil­ity to cater to ev­ery mar­ket. The more re­cent de­vel­op­ments in the key cos­mopoli­tan ar­eas are up there as far as in­ter­na­tional stan­dards go.

But there’s also an­other 50 odd kilo­me­tres of coast­line with places like Cur­rumbin and Coolan­gatta. Th­ese are pop­u­lated by all lev­els of ac­com­mo­da­tion and to­tally ac­ces­si­ble prod­ucts,’’ Mr Pole says.

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