Good Timing is quintessential in the property game

SCOTT MURCOCH
THE AUSTRALIAN
19 SEPTEMBER 2016

Guy French-Wright says Melbourne is experiencing growing tenant demand.
Picture: Stuart McEvoy

Melbourne developer Guy French-Wright hopes the national property market performs better for the rest of the year than his football team, Richmond, did in the past season.

A native New Zealander, Mr French-Wright, 37, is an ardent All Blacks supporter and attends as many matches as he can each year. But his five-year-old son has fallen in love with the yellow and black AFL team, which is facing an unprecedented upheaval after another poor season. The team has not won a premiership since 1980. “They’re in a lot of trouble,” Mr French-Wright said.

Melbourne’s rich sporting culture is a highlight of living in the city. “I’m a New Zealander but don’t hold that against me,” he said. “I’m a rugby tragic, so I’m not living in the right city for that, but there is so much sport happening here.”

He joined Quintessential Equity, an unlisted wholesale fund manager, as head of development in his 17th year in the industry.

Before the switch earlier this year he worked at Mirvac, leading its residential and commercial development divisions in Victoria.

In the new role, he has focused primarily on building a diversified national portfolio. He has increased significantly its national pipeline of work by securing Worksafe Victoria’s major relocation to Geelong at Quintessential Equity’s $120 million 1 Malop Street development. He also has expanded the business into the Brisbane market with the $45m acquisition of Garden Square, a fully leased office property. Mr French-Wright said the central city commercial development in most capital cities was presenting the best opportunities. “We are looking for where the tenant demand is going to be and we think that is in the city areas at the moment,” he said, “The secondary area locations are not pricing in the risk correctly. They might be the suburban developments but we don’t think the tenant demand is going to be there for them.”

The Sydney market was different, he said, and was facing a perfect storm of strong demand, especially from a growing number of start-up firms, while several buildings were due to be resumed to make way for the Metro development. It is estimated that up to 19 commercial buildings could be demolished across the next 18 months, removing thousands of square metres of office space. “Sydney is a very different market to the rest of the country,” he said. “There’s an infrastructure boom under way and it’s not based just in the city. We have been looking at sites in Parramatta, North Sydney and Pyrmont because of the withdrawals that have been happening. “When we look at these sites, timing is the key. You have to make sure you get them in your own time.”

The rest of the country’s commercial development market is mixed, though. Perth, he said, remained in the doldrums while Melbourne was experiencing growing tenant demand and Brisbane was showing some renewed signs of life. Quintessential is about to start building 360 units in Adelaide as part of its first residential development