Caring about community
Villawood Properties is among Australia’s leading property developers. Founded in Melbourne 25 years ago by Executive Director Rory Costelloe and a group of his friends, the company has progressed from doing 10-lot subdivisions, to subdividing 1500 lots a year and turning over $250 million per annum in sales.
Co-Executive Director Tony Johnson explains that over the past 25 years, Villawood has grown to be a serious player in the development market.
“We probably supply about 10 per cent of Melbourne’s market, and now have a full national presence. We play very much with and against the major public companies. They are our major competitors, and they acknowledge us as a major competitor.”
The company also has a land bank in excess of 18,000 lots throughout Eastern and South East Australia – which is bigger than many of its public competitors.
“We’re a small company, but very prolific in our activity,” Tony says.
Tony runs this innovative and progressive business along with fellow Executive Director Rory Costelloe. Between them, they have more than 50 years of industry experience, and they both personally oversee every development the company does. Together, Tony says he and Rory have a philosophy of “doing things differently.”
“We really ‘walk the talk’ when it comes to our developments,” he says. “We care about what we do, and we’re supported by a team of people who share our same values and commitment to excellence. We’re passionate about what we do, and that’s why we’re here.”
In addition to operating in major cities in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland, Villawood Properties also operates in regional areas. Over the years, Villawood has created a long list of innovative, premium communities – places that people can proudly call home.
The award-winning Marriott Waters development in Lyndhurst is a prime example of Villawood’s passion for community. Developed in a joint venture with the Marriott Family, it is master planned to create “a genuine sense of community and place.”
According to Tony, the origins of that particular development go back 15 years, to when he met the Marriott Family. At the time, they owned an enormous tract of land in Lyndhurst. Tony formed a strong relationship with them after they sold him a different property, which he developed many years ago. Roughly eight years ago, the Marriott’s came to him with their last family holding.
“They didn’t want to sell it,” Tony recalls. “They had every developer knocking on their door, but they wanted to produce something they can be proud of for the next century.”
Historically, Tony says the land was “basically a swamp.” It was well situated, but resided in a regional ‘low spot.’ This presented several different challenges from a construction perspective.
“It formed the collection point for a major wetland system,” Tony explains. “It services land to the north and south of it. So in our plans, we ended up establishing over 18 to 24 hectares of natural wetlands as a centre line through the development.”
In the early stages, Villawood also introduced non-mandated recycled water, and had optic fibre pulled in. The team also focused on achieving a network of roads, footpaths and shared paths to provide residents and visitors with safe, attractive and well-connected links to the key elements of the estate.
In between all that, Villawood also negotiated with local council to include a 13,000 square metre retail precinct. Within the centre, Villawood has attracted the likes of Woolworths, Dan Murphy’s, and roughly 25 specialty shops, offices, and restaurants.
“This is a very, very successful retail project,” Tony says. “It’s on a major road overlooking wetlands, and it’s not built in a normal way. We did things differently, and it’s been very well received.”
Currently, Marriott Waters as a whole also encompasses a primary school, a range of local and district open spaces, walking and cycling paths, children’s playgrounds, picnic and BBQ facilities, and unique public art and sculptures. Additionally, there’s a private residents only club – which is a staple at a number of Villawood developments, and includes a gymnasium, indoor pool, and function centre.
When the development as a whole is finished, Tony says it will also include more than 1,000 lots of housing. And the people in those houses have access to “everything they need within 500 metres.”
“There are supermarkets, schools, major sporting fields, a railway station, medical and dental facilities, restaurants, and a freeway just around the corner,” Tony says. “And best of all, it’s a walkable community. A lot of people talk about walkable communities, but to get one 38 kilometres out of town is pretty extraordinary.”
“As a liveable, walkable community, Marriott Waters has it all,” he says. “It’s turned out to be a beautiful new community, and one that we’re extremely proud of.”
Over the years, Villawood Properties has taken home an extensive list of industry accolades. The company has been recognised as a leader in its sector, and its developments have reflected that leadership with numerous award victories. In 2010, the company’s Alamanda community in Point Cook won the national Urban Development Institute of Australia’s (UDIA) Award for Best Residential Development.
With Marriott Waters, Villawood has continued its award-winning streak. At the 2013 UDIA Victoria Awards for Excellence, the development won two prestigious accolades – the Melbourne Water Recognition Award, and the Master Planned Development Award.
“Those awards are what we strive for,” Tony says. “That’s what keeps us going. To be recognised by our peers is very important for us.”
Tony credits the Master Planned Development Award to the liveability and walkability of Marriott Waters, and the sincere focus on “community” that went into every aspect of its design.
He credits the Melbourne Water Recognition Award, to the development’s use of recycled water, and to the fact that over 20 per cent of this incredible new community is devoted to waterways and parks.
“Melbourne Water is our head drainage authority,” he says. “For them to come out and say, ‘This is the best in Melbourne’ – that’s something special. We’ve come a long way in that respect, and it’s great to be recognised for it. That adds a lot to our brand.”
“In general, sustainability is the way to go,” he adds. “That’s our direction. As developers, we’re really trying to do the right thing. And if you look at the things we are doing at Villawod, you’ll see we walk the talk.”
As Villawood Properties continues its national expansion, Tony says the team will continue to focus on introducing sustainability into every development it does. It will also encourage its builders to take the same journey.
“As a company, we’re moving forward,” Tony says. “We want to bring some of our initiatives to other states as well. We want to see complete storm water re-use, intelligent water tanks, and pressurised sewer systems. We want to be ground breaking. We want to put the industry on its ear.”