You purchased the land for HABITAT 18 years ago – what were your thoughts at the time in regards to developing it?
The land has quite a back story. It was zoned as a “village” some 30 years ago with the intention of building a “model village”. Council even sent people to Scandinavia to look at what were then, quite revolutionary “sustainable” housing models. What we’ve designed is in many ways just an extension of that original intent – somewhere people can live and work in a socially and environmentally progressive, village environment. To their credit, Council have supported the project from the very outset - producing site specific development control plans to allow smaller, more modest commercial/housing options. Planning controls that would allow people to live, work and play in the one place.
Has your vision changed over time? If so, what influenced this?
Fundamentally no, my vision hasn’t changed. The idea was always to build a variety of different commercial and housing options to suit owner-occupied, passion-based businesses. You need only drive through the Byron Arts and Industry Estate to see there is an unsatisfied need for a built form that will allow people to live and work in the same place. People are striving to achieve a good work/life balance. Habitat is simply a reflection of this trend.
What makes HABITAT special?
Habitat is one of the only developments I am aware of that has been specifically designed for people to live and work in the same place.
The concept of a village lifestyle was somewhat lost with the introduction of cars. From a town planning perspective, there has been an emphasis on making people drive to work. This development is about returning to more of a “human” scale.
It is all about bringing like-minded people and businesses together – progressive minded business people who value a sense of community that is part and parcel of the Byron lifestyle. It's also for those amongst us that want to lead a more sustainable, balanced lifestyle - without having to compromise on creature comforts or style.
The community facilities at Habitat also set it apart from everything else currently on offer in the region. Facilities including; a lap pool, designated staff and visitor parking, electric car charging points, change facilities for those that want to ride their bike to work, shared meeting rooms, top tier solar power capabilities and perhaps most importantly, super-fast internet access via the NBN network. All lots enjoy full “fibre” connections to the premises - enabling download speeds of 100 MBPs or more [depending on your choice of ISP].
And…technology aside, there's something special about having good coffee at your doorstep and being able to walk to the beach at lunch...
What made you decide to go into property development, having focused your career on being a festival promoter?
I did three weeks of architecture before changing to law and accounting – then ignored both to become a festival promoter. The core of being a festival promoter is town planning - traffic, waste management, liaising with council – for me property development is a natural extension of all of this.
Do you feel your background working in the creative industries has influenced the way in which you have approached HABITAT?
Completely. I have always been interested in the creative industries. I think when people talk about the creative industries, what they are really talking about are passion-based businesses - that's where my experience lies and Byron is a place where these businesses can really prosper.
Byron Bay is globally recognised as one of Australia’s most popular beachside towns, how does it stack up from a business perspective?
I may be biased, but I think Byron is one of the few regional locations in this country from which you could easily base an international business. As businesses like Spell have proved, [thanks to the internet] you really can be a “global player” from what is essentially a small regional town. This is increasingly the trend. There is the idea of dropping “out and in” at the same time in Byron. You can surf at lunch and run a serious business in the afternoon. Cheap air travel and good internet is enabling people to make the change - to “live the dream”. Who doesn’t want that?