This article first appeared in City & Country, The Edge Malaysia Weekly on May 30, 2022 - June 5, 2022
Melbourne’s Southbank is known for its arts and culture offerings. In 2028, it will also be home to Australia’s biggest contemporary art museum, the National Gallery for Contemporary Art and Design, or NGV Contemporary. It was recently announced that the Victorian government would be building the A$1.7 billion art gallery in the area.
This augurs well for Australian property developer Beulah International, whose integrated development STH BNK by Beulah will be located not far from the gallery. At the launch Down Under on April 2, 345 residential units of the development were snapped up, amounting to A$400 million, a record in the country.
Beulah International was established in 2009. It currently has a portfolio of 14 projects, including mixed-use developments, high-rise apartments and townhouses.
On June 4 and 5, 150 residential units at STH BNK by Beulah will be made available to buyers and investors in Malaysia, at the Four Seasons Hotel Kuala Lumpur.
According to Beulah International co-founders Adelene Teh, its executive director, and Jiaheng Chan, its managing director, the state government is offering a special stamp duty discount of 50% until June 30. To acquire a unit, one only needs to put a 10% down payment and nothing more until the project is completed.
The integrated development will have something for everyone.
“We believe it is the only hyper mixed-use development in Australia. There are no other projects that we have seen that have [this] amount of programmes or spaces all in one place. It is great for all kinds of people, be it owners, owner-occupiers, investors, visitors or workers. There are great amenities at your doorstep,” says Teh, an architect.
Chan, an engineer, recalls that the land was put up for sale by BMW in 2017 via international tender.
“We are humbled that BMW has chosen us to purchase the site. I think [it was] because of the vision we had, which is an integrated development, that excited them because they have an option to participate in the project.”
Beulah purchased the 1.53-acre tract for A$101 million and subsequently bought the adjacent land of 0.37 acres to create a 1.9-acre island site with roads around the development. Due to a confidentiality clause, Chan and Teh are unable to disclose how much they paid for the adjacent land.
To help realise their dream of creating a “vertical metropolis”, Beulah held an international competition and invited six prominent architecture firms — BIG, Coop Himmelb(l)au, MAD Architects, MVRDV, OMA and UNStudio, which partnered local firms — to submit their designs. UNStudio of Amsterdam and Australian firm Cox Architecture were the eventual winners.
STH BNK by Beulah has a gross development value of A$2.7 billion and will feature two towers atop an 7-storey podium. The East Tower will have 101 storeys while the West Tower will have 63.
There are four residential categories — Garden Rise, High Rise, Sky Rise and private hotel residences. The first three, with a total of 691 units, are located in the East Tower. The last category will have units in both towers, but details are still being finalised.
The 427 Garden Rise units are situated on Levels 10 to 40 in the East Tower. They are 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom units with built-ups ranging from 549 to 926 sq ft. The selling price starts at A$555,000.
The High Rise units, which total 166, are on Levels 43 to 63 and come in 2- and 3-bedroom designs, ranging from 807 to 1,421 sq ft in size. These are going for A$1.07 million onwards.
The 98 Sky Rise units are in 3- and 4-bedroom configurations. Located on Levels 64 to 81, they range in size from 861 to 2,938 sq ft and are selling from A$1.33 million each.
Says Teh, “This is the first residential skyscraper that follows “Better Apartment Design Standards”, a guideline by the Victorian government which states the minimum sizes for the bedrooms, the minimum amount of light and so on, so the apartments are more generous than what was built in the past.”
In addition to the residential units, there will also be a big variety of amenities for residents and visitors to enjoy.
At the West Tower, there will be the 210-room Four Seasons Hotel Melbourne, the first Four Seasons Hotel in the city. There will also be a rooftop hotel restaurant and bar, office spaces, and an art gallery measuring over 32,000 sq ft overseen by the Centre Pompidou of Paris. There will also be an all-in-one wellness precinct occupying nearly 53,820 sq ft that will offer services such as food, diagnostics, spa and beauty treatments.
Between the two towers is STH BNK Square, a more than 21,500 sq ft public park atop the podium.
The podium levels will host the STH BNK Retail Precinct, which will have an experiential shopping concept; STH BNK Market Hall, which will offer pre-prepared food, gourmet food and sustainably sourced foods; STH BNK Steps, which will lead from the ground floor to STH BNK Square; STH BNK Kids Club; STH BNK Auditorium which can seat about 3,000, and numerous dining options.
There will also be a broadcast room for people to film projects, do podcasts or their latest TikTok videos, multipurpose rooms, a cinema, gym, private dining rooms, a library, co-working spaces and much more.
Over at the East Tower, in addition to the residential units, there will be pocket parks on every eight levels. At the very top of the tower will be STH BNK Sky Garden. Teh reveals that the sky garden will be designed by the engineers and designers of Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay. “Imagine that, 100 storeys above ground, [there is] a place for people to relax and get educated on plants and so on.”
Teh and Chan highlight that this project has many unique features. For instance, it will have the tallest tower in the southern hemisphere, the tallest vertical gardens in the world, the Four Seasons Hotel Melbourne; and the art gallery in partnership with the Centre Pompidou.
On top of that, it is in an unbeatable location, being walking distance of the Yarra River and CBD.
In addition, STH BNK by Beulah has a wide range of services including an auto club as well as green features such as a trademarked air filtration system that pulls fresh air into the development.
The STH BNK Auto Club is a subscription-based private car share programme that enables residents to book a vehicle for their personal use. Car models available may include BMWs, Teslas and Land Rovers.
“There are three tiers of membership, allowing you to select certain cars for personal use,” says Chan. The service will allow cost savings of about 50% compared with owning a car.
The project’s green features include Beulah FreshAir, which is a bespoke centralised ventilation system that not only filters out harmful pollutants such as noxious fumes and bushfire smoke, but also ensures that the air will have a higher oxygen content than outside. As this clean air is drawn into the building, carbon dioxide and stale air are flushed out. Moreover, the air will be cooled through a heat exchange system. To Chan’s knowledge, this is a first in Australia.
The development will also be fully powered by renewable energy. Green energy will be bought in bulk from a service provider that generates the energy from renewable sources. Other environmentally friendly features include a smart water system, rainwater harvesting for irrigation and toilet flushing, solar panels, electric vehicle charging ports, high-performance glass glazing and the use of local materials.
“We are also making sure that all our infrastructure and everything [else] is built in such a way that it is ready for a carbon-neutral future,” says Teh.
With STH BNK by Beulah, Teh and Chan are aiming to create not just something for a wide audience, but a unique project. Teh, who formerly worked in Southbank, says there used to be a lot of single-use developments in the area.
“We have an opportunity to create something that will serve the areas that surround the STH BNK by Beulah site, which will become a landmark for the area; it will become the heartbeat of Southbank. By doing a mixed-use project, we are attracting different types of people and users throughout the day, from daytime to night-time. Different parts of the building are activated, and it becomes a very lively precinct,” describes Teh.
Chan adds: “We don’t see just two buildings, we see it as a vertical city. Interwoven [among the components] are public parks and gardens. So you are getting this very unique proposition that is integrated that draws people from the ground level all the way to the top of the towers. There is a big mix of public and private spaces.”
The vertical gardens of the project are an homage to the state of Victoria, which is known as the Garden State.
According to Chan and Teh, STH BNK by Beulah is supported by the Victorian government, having received backing from the City of Melbourne’s Future Melbourne Committee in March. On top of that, one of their investment partners is Tan Sri Kong Hon Kong, founder of Nirvana Asia Group, via his private vehicle KHK Group.
Asked to comment on reports of higher interest rates by the Reserve Bank of Australia, house prices falling and a slowdown in the property market, Teh and Chan say they are not overly concerned that the project’s sales or timeline will be affected. This is because the development will only be completed in five years’ time, in late 2027 or early 2028, barring unforeseen circumstances.
Creating something new yet memorable is always a challenge. For Beulah International and its forward-thinking founders, it is a challenge they have accepted head-on.
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