Shane Quinn, co-founder and executive chairman of Quintessential Equity, is a big believer in Geelong’s future. With affordable homes, nearby beaches and a commutable train ride to Melbourne, Geelong has all the hallmarks of a second major business hub outside Victoria’s capital.
Quinn told The Fifth Estate that all the region is still lacking is high quality, sustainable and healthy office accommodation to attract the top talent and businesses.
This prompted the diversified commercial property group to secure 1 Malop St to develop for WorkSafe Victoria with outstanding sustainability and wellness ratings, including the second WELL Core & Shell Platinum Certification in the world.
As one of the first buildings to secure funding through the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to “stretch” its energy efficiency performance, Quinn suspects the building remains one of the most sustainable in regional Australia, if not the most.
New HQ for Geelong council will be 6 Star engineered timber with strong local procurement
As a “strong believer” in Geelong, the property group is also developing 60 Moorabool Street for health insurer GMHBA.
In recent news the company’s project to develop a new headquarters for the City of Greater Geelong made from cross laminated timber (CLT) recently got the green light.
The $220 million “Civic Precinct” at 137 Mercer St designed by Cox Architecture will include a new centralised head office for the council and a separate building owned and managed by Quintessential Equity, as well as a 2600 square metre public precinct. The building is targeting a 6 Star Green Star rating.
Quinn said that council is keen to lead the market on low embodied carbon building, which is why engineered timber – which sequesters carbon and locks it away – was selected as opposed to emissions-intensive materials such as concrete and steel.
“They wanted it to be green from day one, they wanted to reduce carbon from day one.”
While CLT is no longer brand new to the Australian market, Quinn wants to see the local workers and businesses skilled up with the innovative material.
The developer and builder Watpac plan to procure 60 per cent of the inputs from local suppliers and businesses throughout construction, which is expected to create around 900 jobs.
Even the timber will be purchased from a local supplier in its first major deal.
Quinn sees local procurement as a win-win for all, because stoking the local economy is “great for our building and the places where we build.”
The company is big on upskilling local communities, including in advanced manufacturing now that the fragility of overseas supply chains has been exposed by Covid.
The company hopes to aim even higher on local procurement in developments down the track in the hope of “leaving a bit of a legacy”.
“We like to leave things better than we found the, which include upskilling people to be involved in projects.”
Green and healthy was a drawcard before, now it’s a must-have
Quinn asserts that there is demand for premium green, healthy office space in Geelong, which businesses previously haven’t had the opportunity to inhabit.
“There is demand for these types of assets that haven’t been on offer before.”
While the property group has long recognised that green healthy office buildings help attract top businesses able to pay for premium office space, Quinn expects office buildings that don’t tick these boxes will struggle in a post-pandemic world.
He says offices are suddenly competing with worker’s homes, so they will need to be desirable spots to be. “Otherwise people will just those to stay at home”.
Businesses will also be looking to offer workers healthy buildings with plenty of fresh air circulating through, and smart sensor technology to allow minimal touchpoints and improved accessibility.
He says substandard office space will struggle to stay attractive enough in the wake of the pandemic.
Geelong is a “Goldilocks” spot, a bit like Parramatta in Sydney, but different
Quinn knows how to spot an up-and-coming business hotspot. The property company saw this sort of potential in Sydney’s Parramatta back in 2010, when rents were half the level of CBD rents, better connectivity from the Western suburbs and sound public infrastructure.
The company foresaw the desire for people living in the west wanting to work closer to home and bought in. The region is now “one of the darlings of the office market”. Quinn’s only regret is not holding onto these properties for longer.
At first glance, Geelong may not seem like the next “second city” like Parramatta – it’s much further away, for a start. But Melbourne’s geography is different to Sydney’s. Melbourne doesn’t have already-established outer city nodes like Paramatta and Liverpool. This puts Geelong in contention to attract Melburnians looking for a “sea change”.
With the major cities becoming all but impossible for first-time buyers to afford, regions where you can get “better bang for your buck” will become all the more important.
There’s also access to stunning beaches, great schools and decent public infrastructure (and the Geelong Cats, Quinn points out).
He also expects that regions like Geelong will fare well in the post-Covid climate, where businesses have become accustomed with remote working and are a happier to see staff work at home, potentially commuting into Melbourne a few days a week.
“I think Geelong will be the beneficiary of what is happening with the agile working environment.”
He’s not the only one thinking this way. Real Estate Institute of New South Wales president Leanne Pilkington agrees that the regional hotspots will do well in the long term in the wake of the pandemic as more people realise they can do more work at home.
Quinn is also not the only one singing Geelong’s praises: The town came in second to Ballarat in Polis Partners’ The City Report that ranked Australian cities on metrics such as economic growth, investments, job growth and welfare reliance.
Geelong also meets the economic consultancy’s “Goldilocks” criteria for thriving regional towns: not too big but not too small, and just close enough to capital cities to enjoy the perks.