Spec Property to expand development portfolio

Mid-tier developer Spec Property is set to launch a 250-apartment project, Flagstaff Green, in West Melbourne as it prepares to significantly expand its development portfolio.

The $160 million project in the development-hotbed on the CBD's fringe will be the biggest so far by the group's trio of brothers – Simon, Daniel and Joshua – who took over running the diversified property business from their Egyptian-born father Sam Abdelmalak.

In a classic migrant-makes-good story, Abdelmalak snr arrived in Australia in 1969 and built a family home in Templestowe, in Melbourne's eastern suburbs.

He subsequently lost his job and was forced to sell the house, using the proceeds to build another two townhouses which became the foundation for a successful and diverse family-owned property development company with interests in real estate management, construction and sales.

Spec Property, part of the Samma Group, now has a development pipeline worth around $400 million and has completed $1 billion of projects since starting 21 years ago.

One son, Simon, runs the company's land acquisition, accounts and sales, the others, Josh and Daniel, focus on construction, design, development, property management, marketing and business operations.

The 32-level Flagstaff project, opposite the gardens at 15-31 Batman Street, will overlook the park and Docklands, Simon Abdelmalak said.

West Melbourne is fast becoming an apartment hotspot.

This week plans developers lodged plans for a $24 million, 74-unit project at 621-643 King Street designed by Six Degrees architects and a $6.5 million, four-storey apartment at 3-11 Howard Street designed by Jackson Clements Burrows Architects.

At 53-55 Dryburgh Street, plans were successfully amended for another six-storey project.

The broader wave of activity across the city will see 17,000 apartments ready for completion and settlement this calendar year in Melbourne, consultancy MacroPlan Dimasi estimates.

A sudden pullback in lending to foreign buyers by major banks and the introduction of a sharp 7 per cent increase in Victoria's stamp duty on foreign purchases this July is likely to put on the brakes.

But Mr Abdelmalak said the group was seeing few signs of a slowdown.

"The last quarter has been one of the strongest we've ever had. The story around migration, education and business opportunities is still very strong. We're still seeing very strong interest from international investors," he said.

Mr Abdelmalak said a shift in people's attitude to apartment living was also apparent.

"There's definitely a cultural shift in Melbourne in regards to apartment living. Even 10 years ago people used to think 'Do I want to live in an apartment?' Now that's the chosen thing. It's spreading through the suburbs as well," he said.

Spec Property recently offloaded a permitted site at 3-5 Shiel Street in North Melbourne for more than $7 million and is considering what to do with another site between Thistlethwaite Street and City Road.

"We look at about 100 sites per month. Then we choose about five or six per year," he said.

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