Investa Developments - Great people, great teams, great outcomes

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Investa's blog Thrive provides workplace insights from industry experts that will enhance your worklife, both inside and outside the office environment.

1. Introduction
2. The benefits of Build to Rent
3. Indi embodies independence
4. Passion for property, pluses for people
5. Stretch towards sustainability, smart buildings
Investa Developments - Great people, great teams, great outcomes How Mark Tait and his growing team are delivering an ambitious pipeline of development projects.

Mark Tait’s 25-year career speaks to power of development to make positive change in people’s lives.

Investa’s Group Executive and Head of Development liked to crunch numbers, so a career in accountancy may have seemed an obvious choice. But it took just a week of balancing spreadsheets while on work experience, for Mark to realise he wanted his career to be centred around delivering something tangible, that had a broad and positive impact on people’s lives. 

There’s nothing more tangible than a high-rise building. Investa currently has an ambitious pipeline of projects that is transforming the way Australians think about their workplaces and shortly, their future residences – and Mark’s 20-strong development team is driving this forward for Investa.  

Take the office and residential towers currently being brought to life by Mark’s development team, in collaboration with leading global real estate investor, asset manager and business builder, Oxford Properties on Sydney Metro’s new Pitt Street over station. The commercial office building at the north entrance of the Pitt Street Station,  known as Parkline Place, is  designed by world-renowned architecture firm Foster+Partners and is an integrated, transport-oriented development in every sense. 

On completion, nearly 4,500 people will work in Parkline Place each day and enjoy one of Australia’s smartest and most sustainable workplaces. The 39-storey building will feature 47,800 sqm of office accommodation and a 1,290 sqm retail space. Foster+Partners’ building design will take its cues from the Bloomberg Building in London and Hearst Tower in New York – with their light filled internal plazas and progressive collaboration spaces. 

“Parkline Place’s unique design delivers large floor plates which are flexible and modular,” Mark said. “The park and city views are incredible, and the abundance of amenity in such a prime location will offer a residential-style experience at work.”

The companion tower at the Southern end of Pitt Street will be the first build-to-rent development in the Sydney CBD. Spanning 39 levels, the Bates Smart design will boast 234 build to rent residential apartments, with extensive on-site amenities. There will be an entire floor dedicated to wellness, another to work-from-home spaces, a lush rooftop terrace, a social lounge and inspiring retail space. Just a stone’s throw from Hyde Park, the building will be on the doorstep of some of Sydney’s best retail, dining and entertainment attractions. 

Mark is excited about Investa’s foray into build-to-rent and the opportunity for the Investa development team to pioneer a new asset class in Australia. 

The Benefits of Build to Rent
Build-to-rent, or BTR for short, is purpose-built residential accommodation that is held for long-term rental, rather than sold to individual owners. This attracts institutional investors, like pension and superannuation funds, looking for steady returns.

While new to Australia, the asset class is well-established in the United States, Europe and the United Kingdom, where it is sometimes called multi-family housing. In the UK, this growing asset class represents 2% of existing housing stock, while in the US it accounts for a massive 12%. 

Australia’s BTR pipeline expanded rapidly in 2020, according to CBRE, growing by 68% and with the total number of units fast approaching 15,000. 

Unlike traditional build-to-sell residential, BTR does not require pre-sales to ensure viability. This reduces development timeframes, creates jobs and ultimately more homes where Australians want to live. 

BTR presents a lot of advantages for tenants, as each development is designed specifically with renting in mind. Think concierge and dry-cleaning services, parcel delivery, pet washes and cool rooms, as well as the assurance of long leases.

Indi embodies independence
In June, Investa launched a new BTR management platform in Australia, called Indi. With a mandate to deliver 5,000 BTR units in Sydney and Melbourne, Indi already has more than 900 apartments underway at both Sydney’s Pitt Street and in the inner-Melbourne suburb of Footscray.

Indi – a name that echoes independence, freedom and community – promises to deliver a “different way to rent” Mark  says. This includes security of tenure through longer term leases of at least three years, a proactive maintenance program, pet-friendly policies, the ability to personalise apartments and sustainable design and operations.

“With BTR, we are building ‘mini cities’ that offer greater amenity and a strong sense of community. We can make a significant contribution to solving Australia’s housing crisis and give Investa an alternate asset class. Our development team is excited to be first movers in this emerging asset class.”

Mark’s team has grown rapidly over the last few years, reflecting the size of Investa’s pipeline and the strength of its vision. “In 2016 we had just seven people in our development team. Today we have 20 – an indication of the direction we are heading. Our growth focus is on development, not just on buying and managing existing assets.”

Passion for property, pluses for people
After turning his mind to a career in the construction industry, Mark completed what he calls a “sandwich degree” in civil engineering. “I would work in the field for six months and study for six. This gave me an appreciation for how the tangible was as important as the theoretical.” 

His passion for property manifested early in landmark projects like Fox Studios and Jacksons Landing in Sydney and Melbourne’s Commonwealth Games Village – first as a delivery and construction manager, and then as development manager. 

Mark joined Investa just after the global financial crisis. “I had intended to go to Investa for a year to ride out the GFC impact.’ That was 15 years ago.” With an engineering degree and a Masters of Property Development under his belt, Mark now oversees the progress and procurement of Investa’s entire pipeline of development projects, watching projects unfold from conception through to completion.

Among these is Barrack Place at 151 Clarence Street in Sydney, which took home the 2020 Rider Levett Bucknall Australian Development of the Year at the Property Council’s Innovation and Excellence Awards. 

Barrack Place was the first office building in the world to have a mandated digital twin – a virtual replica of the physical asset – from start to finish. It sounds impressive, but what does this mean? When the doors of Barrack Place opened to its tenant customers, each of the building’s 25,476 assets – every floor, wall, ceiling, stair, lift and even doorhandle – had been mapped by a digital twin developed by Investa and technology partner Willow. Now the building is fully operational, IoT sensors track how people use their spaces to improve comfort and ensure every square metre is maximised.

“Awards are nice acknowledgement of the work that we do, but that’s not what motivates us at Investa. What makes me most proud is that we put a stretch target on this development – an industry-first digital twin. For that building to then be recognised as Australia’s development of the year in the 2020 Property Council of Australia’s Innovation & Excellence awards demonstrates that our team is making an impact and most importantly, adding value to the built environment” says Mark.

Announced in early July, the Investa and Gwynvill co-owned flagship building Sixty Martin Place has won the Property Council Australia, NSW State Development of the Year Award 2021. The award celebrates the innovative and sustainable features of Sixty Martin Place, setting a new benchmark for design and cutting edge-technology. It joins a growing list of recognitions received by Sixty Martin Place since it opened its doors in 2019.

Stretch towards sustainability, smart buildings
Australia’s property industry is collaborative and competitive in equal measure and the people who live and work in buildings are the beneficiaries. “I love that our industry is competitive – it’s one of the things that gets me out of bed every morning. It means we are continually striving to build places where people can thrive” Mark says.

How does this competition play out? Mark points to sustainability as just one example. Australia had led the world’s most respected ‘league table’ for sustainable development, GRESB, for a decade. Each year, Australia’s property leaders take another step up the sustainability ladder, and Investa has certainly played its part by setting Australia’s first science-based target and a pathway to net zero emissions by 2040.

Or take the commitment to smart, intelligent buildings. Mark is a champion of building information modelling and sat on the board of BuildingSmart Australasia for several years following Investa’s delivery of Australia’s first full BIM commercial office place, Coca Cola Place at 40 Mount Street. “We had a 3D BIM deliverable when no one knew what the acronym stood for,” Mark laughs. 

Today, Investa has set industry-leading standards for digital twins at three buildings: 567 Collins Street, Sydney’s 151 Clarence Street, and Sixty Martin Place. “We were early adopters of technology, innovation and smart building – and we are excited to see the market takes some of the learnings we’ve helped pioneer even further,” Mark says.

“Digital twins are getting more advanced, we are refining our processes, we are getting greater time and cost certainty on projects. But most importantly we are getting better operational data. 

“One of the biggest learnings from Covid is that data is fundamental to productive and happy building occupants – whether it’s comfort, servicing, community-building or space requirements… a ready source of information allows us to respond quickly and ensure people in our buildings are thriving.”

Throughout his career, Mark has learnt the value of both patience and persistence. “Many of the developments that we work on take up to eight years to complete, from site identification, planning through to operational handover.”

Keeping one eye on today and another on the horizon is never easy – and it can be even harder to keep a growing team of talent motivated. How does Mark maintain the momentum?

“If you want to deliver large complex developments, you need to bring all the stakeholders on the journey. If you’re going to put a flag up on the hill, when you turn around you want to make sure everyone is marching with you towards a common goal. Great people, great teams, great outcomes. That’s always been my mantra.”


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Did you want to hear more from Investa?

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Investa's blog Thrive provides workplace insights from industry experts that will enhance your worklife, both inside and outside the office environment.