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This article first appeared in City & Country, The Edge Malaysia Weekly on December 20, 2021 - December 26, 2021

Winner | Verdana, Miranda, NSW, Australia | BRDB Developments Sdn Bhd

Nestled in the southern Sydney suburb of Miranda in the Sutherland Shire in New South Wales, Australia, Verdana may be a boutique development of only 65 apartment units, but its size belies what it offers in terms of a convenient location, well-thought-out design and holistic lifestyle.

For those qualities and more, Verdana, the second Australian project by BRDB Developments Sdn Bhd, won the Outstanding Overseas Project Award at The Edge Malaysia Property Excellence Awards 2021.

BRDB Developments CEO Christopher Manivannan tells City & Country that it was “a very good development” right from conceptualisation. “When we bought this land, it came with the development approval, and we [liked] the design done by the architect, Nettletontribe.”

The land was bought in December 2016, and the project was launched the following year in July with a sales gallery on site. By end-2020, all units but one were sold, Christopher reveals. “I was very confident about this project [even though] it was a small and niche development,” he recalls.

Despite being caught in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic, the project was completed on time in September last year. “We were able to have a short gestation period because [dealing with] compliance and the authorities [in Australia] was very transparent and easy.”

Thanks to the quick completion, he adds, the return on investment was “also very high”.

One of the main challenges, however, was the inability to travel to Australia during the lockdowns last year to check the project site. “We were also worried that there would be lockdowns in New South Wales, which would delay the completion of our project,” he says.

Fortunately, the state deemed construction to be essential work, so the project was completed as scheduled. It also helped that the majority of the units were sold prior to the outbreak, says Christopher. “We had a very good local project team and expertise in Australia from our first project [Parq on Flinders] in Wollongong, who helped us finish this product.”

Technology was another significant enabler. “The local teams there were able to show us what was happening on the ground using drone shots every other week, so we received progress reports,” he says, adding that there were only two other Malaysians, senior manager of international projects Melissa Emuang and general manager of international projects Alex Lei, apart from himself, to look into the project.

Location that ticks all boxes

Previously occupied by three bungalows, the plot is only about 30,900 sq ft, less than an acre. Today, two main buildings of seven storeys, including three basement parking levels, and a rooftop entertainment terrace that make up Verdana stand in its stead. The design takes advantage of the corner location of the site at the junction of Kingsway and University Road, directly opposite the Port Hacking High School and Miranda Park. “The views of the nearby parklands are very important ... we wanted to capture those views,” Christopher explains.

Apartments fronting Kingsway get unobstructed views of the park while others overlook the quiet tree-lined streetscape of University Road. Some of the units open seamlessly to spacious, private courtyards.

“We also know there is strong demand for 1- and 2-bedroom apartments in good locations like Miranda, which is very close to amenities. As buildings in the area are mainly low-rise, you get beautiful Sydney skyline views,” he adds.

With a total built-up area of 53,572 sq ft, Verdana has a gross development value of RM149.5 million. The average unit selling price is A$800,000 for a 900 sq ft 2-bedder, which makes up 71% of the units. One-bedders, with an average built-up of 800 sq ft, are priced from about A$600,000. There are only two 3-bedders, with an average built-up of 1,400 sq ft.

There are many things to like about Verdana’s location, which is surrounded by an array of amenities. The vibrant retail heart of Miranda, where the popular Westfield shopping centre is, and a thriving F&B scene is a mere 200m away. Verdana also enjoys easy access to the scenic Royal National Park, a 15-minute drive away, and the popular Cronulla Beach in about half that time. The Sutherland Hospital and Kareena Private Hospital are about five minutes’ drive away while the Sydney International Airport and CBD are about half an hour’s. The Miranda train station and nearest bus stop is just 400m from Verdana.

“The location ticks all the boxes. There are two schools — a secondary and a primary — within walking distance. It’s very, very convenient,” says Christopher.

Simple, functional, sustainable design

As for the design, functionality and sustainability are key. “We’re trying to go back to the basics,” says Christopher.

The apartments are designed with practical, spacious layouts and come with full-height glazed sliding doors for sunlight to filter in, engineered timber floors for warmth and texture, engineered stone benchtops and stone splashbacks for the kitchen, and floor-to-ceiling homogeneous tiles for the bathrooms, with frameless glass shower screens, and well-designed storage and recessed niches for a clean, minimalist aesthetic. Units also come with quality fittings, including kitchen appliances, wardrobes, carpets in bedrooms, lightings and air conditioning and heating.

Verdana has minimal building facilities, though. “Australians are a little bit different from us, Asians,” Christopher explains. “We like to have a lot of common areas and facilities like the gym, swimming pool and multipurpose hall. But I think Australians are practical, and they want to be near parks and beaches because they love nature. Besides, Australia has a lot of dedicated parks due to their town planning, and there are also a lot of nature and beaches. Therefore, we did not think it was necessary to have such facilities.”

Not incorporating these extras also keeps the maintenance cost low, he says. For example, swimming pools are not common in low-density developments because it is expensive to heat them.

“We must understand what people want. There’s no point giving them a facility they hardly use because it is not functional and it takes up space, energy, maintenance, cost and resources. So, we want to do away with such things and look at functionality and sustainability. And so, we kept things basic … Verdana is very simple, actually,” says Christopher.

The maintenance cost ranges from A$750/quarter for the 1-bedder to A$1,500/quarter for the 3-bedder.

The bottom line is to keep prices reasonable, giving homeowners value and making sure the property is sustainable. “Hence, it was important to keep maintenance costs as low as possible, to not burden future generations,” he adds.

Verdana is a mid-market offering targeting the local Australian market. Most of the buyers are first-time homeowners, as well as downsizers who have retired. “All are owner-occupiers, in fact, and most are from around Miranda, and are young and older couples ... I think there’s a tremendous amount of favour [shown to Verdana], so I believe we did something right from the start,” says Christopher.

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