27 April 2012 – Nicholas Wolff has left Frasers Property to establish a new consultancy Urban Exe Pty Ltd to specialise in the delivery of large and difficult infill projects in Sydney and Perth with a strong focus on sustainability.
The consultancy will leverage the expertise Mr Wolff notched up in range of major projects in his former role as chief operating officer of Frasers and previously with Sterling Estates. These include Sydney’s Central Park, Broadway and the former Children’s Hospital site at Camperdown and over the past three years at the East Perth Redevelopment Authority.
He told The Fifth Estate in an interview that he relished the opportunity to put in practice some of the skills he honed in delivering these projects, particularly how to cut through the stonewall of resident opposition and begin to deliver some of the density in housing that Sydney’s planners say is vital.
The key, he said, was extensive and genuine consultation.
On Central Park there was a high level of consultation, he said.
“We ran a very comprehensive communications and stakeholder engagement; it was genuine engagement.
“On City Quarter too [on the former Children’s Hospital site with Sterling]. We talked and talked to people, we didn’t hide behind a consultant; we listened to the community. You can address a lot of the concerns relatively easily.
“You can’t always deliver something everyone is happy with but you can move the taller buildings, shift their height and bulk around.
“Harold Park [Mirvac’s development site in Glebe] was handled pretty well. Council and the racing people who sold it took a lot of advice and they looked carefully at what we did at Central Park and talked early to the community.”
A problem, he said, was that many of the major urban renewable sites and site amalgamations have major planning issues. Often they were sold with master plans designed to maximise floor space and sale price.
“If you’re the buyer, you’re saying, ‘we are a developer, we want to build something, we’re not just interested in selling a site.’
“A lot of these major sites have strict planning controls to prevent the worst from happening, instead of saying, ‘here’s a vision of what you can do if you vary your controls; you can deliver a better outcome’ and overlaying all of that with sustainability, as we did on Central Park.”
Mr Wolff agreed that obvious infill sites were in part drying up but there was still plenty of opportunity around railway stations. White Bay offered a major opportunity, there was residential now mooted for Darling Harbour as part of its redevelopment and the City of Sydney’s 2030 plan incorporates a view of high rise towers above central station, he said.
Mr Wolff, who was managing partner at DEM Architects (previously Devine Erby Mazlin) in the 80s, joined Sterling Estates in 1998 and joined Frasers in 2006. He is a qualified architect and also holds a Master of Business Administration.
– By Tina Perinotto