Total House fetched $39.5 million.CHINESE and other Asian buyers are now dominating land sales in and around Melbourne’s CBD, accounting for 85 per cent of recent large sales of sites intended for redevelopment, a leading estate agent says.
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Mark Wizel, senior associate director of CBRE City Sales, said the influx of Chinese buyers was helping to keep Melbourne’s construction services sector working amid the decline in building approvals. ”At a time when we really need it, Asian developers have bought in, and that’s providing jobs for local architects, builders, town planners, engineers and estate agents,” Mr Wizel told the Property Council of Australia’s growth summit in Melbourne.

”I feel we are only at the beginning of investment from mainland Chinese groups, for both development and passive commercial properties in Melbourne. Melbourne has led the way: there’s less of it in Sydney, and the Chinese are not buying in Perth.”

Mr Wizel said three Chinese banks were setting up in Collins Street, ”following their clients”, and would play a key role in financing the developments, because Australia’s big four banks would not accept Chinese properties as security. Melbourne appealed to Chinese buyers in part because of its long history of Chinese influence, starting when Chinatown, the oldest in Australia, was established in Little Bourke Street during the gold rush of the 1850s. Chinese investors are now settling in Melbourne, buying houses and sending their children to the top local schools.

Mr Wizel, whose firm specialises in sales to Asian buyers, listed 24 big purchases in and around the CBD by buyers from China, Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong, in the past two years. The land sales totalled $457 million, but he said the developments would involve investment of at least $4 billion. They include:

■Shanghai developer Richard Gu of the AXF group paying $39.5 million for a site on the corner of Russell and Little Bourke streets, in the heart of Chinatown, to develop a 60-storey tower.

■Another Shanghai developer, Jeff Xu of the Golden Age group building a 32-storey hotel and apartment block on the old Naval and Military Club site in Little Collins Street.

■Beijing-based Everbright Group developing its controversial townhouse and apartment project on the Stonington mansion site in Malvern.

■Malaysian developers SP Setia planning to build 800 apartments at 151 Franklin Street.

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