WINNING THE WEST
ADRIAN FINI, THE PERTH DEVELOPER WITH THE SOUL OF AN ARTIST, IS QUIETLY BOOSTING THE CITY’S APPEAL WITH A SERIES OF PROJECTS THAT BRING OUT ITS BEST.
For a city that’s largely an afterthought to those living on the eastern seaboard, Perth is rather hogging the spotlight lately. With the advent of a nonstop flight from London, its attributes – both natural and man-made – are being praised far beyond Australia’s borders: the vanilla-white perfection of Cottesloe Beach and the pleasingly sylvan reaches of Kings Park, obviously; but also the proliferation of excellent cocktail bars and restaurants, the sudden abundance of notably good hotels, and the robust, increasingly crowded skyline. If Perth is a runner-up, it’s one that’s lately showing a breadth – and depth – of style that’s surprising to a lot of people.
Except for Perthites, of course, who’ve always known, in a non-braggy sort of way, exactly how good they have it. On a fine, blustery afternoon early last summer, I sat in the surpassingly elegant surrounds of Como The Treasury – one of those excellent new hotels, and the one that many (including this writer) consider not just the finest city hotel in Perth, but in the country – with one particularly prominent local, whose contributions to the city are numerous and wide-ranging. Soft-spoken, serious but quick to smile, impeccably stylish in softconstruct Italian blazer and trousers, Adrian Fini is The Treasury’s primary owner and developer.
Fini is an interesting study: born and raised in Perth, he’s a first-generation Australian, the son of two Italians; his wife is Italian by birth; of his five children, one son already works for the family business. His father, Tony, founded the family property-development company Fini Group; Adrian joined in the 80s and became managing director in 2001. (It eventually merged, becoming Mirvac Fini, with Adrian as CEO; when that later became Mirvac Group, he moved to an executive director role, before stepping down in 2010 to focus on FJM Property, the private development company he’d formed several years earlier with longtime collaborators Barry Jones and David Mack.) Fini maintains a strong sense of his Italian heritage: family, food and excellence in service matter to him, and he’s an avowed subscriber to the idea that buildings should contribute both usefulness and beauty to the community they’re part of – something he has in part attributed to the impression made on him by Rome’s “creative urban spaces” when he visited Italy on childhood holidays. (He once told a local newspaper that the best litmus for judging Perth’s evolution since his youth was to be found in the contents of a sandwich; having been sent to school with panini al prosciutto crudo – then considered a foreign oddity – he pitied the boys and girls who had to make do with Devon sausage.)
Fini does big deals, some of the biggest in WA: his last major one, the Cathedral Square Precinct in the CBD, of which the State Buildings that house Como The Treasury form part, cost an estimated $585m all told; his current projects include a $385m multi-use development at Elizabeth Quay, to include two hotels, several hundred residences, dining and lifestyle outlets and the city’s first penthouse public art museum (extending over the top two storeys of one of the towers); and the Murdoch Health and Knowledge Precinct, an innovative combination medi-hotel, clinic, aged-care facility and residences. But he’s also rehabilitating a historic pub on the south coast, called the Coogee Hotel, with the intention to relaunch it late this year. His partner in this is restaurateur Nic Trimboli, with whom he also founded the Little Creatures brewery, West Perth’s Gordon Street Garage café and the perennially packed Fremantle restaurantbakery Bread In Common.
Besides his multifarious CV – mega-developer, restaurant impresario, former brewery owner (Lion bought Little Creatures in 2012), philanthropist (he sits on the board of the Perth Festival and chairs the Art Gallery of WA’s TomorrowFund Foundation) – Fini is a genuine aesthete. He studied design in London, has a wide knowledge of contemporary architecture and collects contemporary art; more to the point, he brings a highly refined, creative eye to the smallest details in every one of his business pursuits – from who furnishes the chocolates in the State Buildings’s tiny arcade atelier, to where the (strictly native) blooms at the alcove florist are sourced from, to which chefs man the various kitchens of the restaurants that have formed his empire. Most intriguing, for a successful businessman, is that he claims to have assigned himself a remit, in business and life, that’s more Renaissance Man than Master of the Universe: to only do for WA what benefits WA – its skylines, its residents, its visitors, its culture.
“The idea with any development was – still is – to