City of Melville spends up big on Moreau Mews properties

N/A25-29 (parking lot) and 31 (white building) Moreau Mews, Applecross
N/A25-29 (parking lot) and 31 (white building) Moreau Mews, Applecross

THE City of Melville has spent almost $8 million buying property on Moreau Mews to create what shapes as an attractive land parcel for developers.

Councillors voted to add 31, 27, 25 and 23 Moreau Mews to the City’s property portfolio at a special council meeting held behind closed doors in February.

The City already owned the parking lot at 29 Moreau Mews and now holds just over 3000sq m of land in the heart of the Canning Bridge Activity Centre Plan (CBACP), which was approved by the WA Planning Commission in April.

The land is in the Kintail Quarter and labelled M15, mixed use up to 15 storeys or 48m in height, although additional height may be considered where an offsetting community benefit is provided.

“(The Kintail Quarter) will be the premier retail and entertainment destination within the CBACP area,” according to the CBACP plan.

“Retail, entertainment, and food and beverage outlets are encouraged at the ground floor, visually interacting with pedestrians, cyclists and vehicle passers-by. Office spaces are strongly encouraged on all levels above the ground floor in M15.

“Residential opportunities… will be in apartment style and are encouraged in all buildings above the third floor.”

Melville chief executive Shayne Silcox said the City had bought the sites with a view to amalgamating them as a larger redevelopment site.

“The City will hold a development option analysis,” he said.

“The analysis will look at various options of either the City developing the site itself, partnering with the private sector to deliver the development, ground leasing the site to a developer or facilitating the development through disposal with community, planning and economic outcomes being the key objective.”

Details of the acquisition of the Moreau Mews properties came to light as a result of public questions from former Melville councillor Effie Nicholson, who asked if it was appropriate for the City to use ratepayers’ money for “real estate speculation”.

In an extensive response to Ms Nicholson’s concerns, corporate services director Marten Tieleman emphasised that like all local governments the City had historically held land holdings.

“The net cash return on commercial properties is currently in excess of $1.7 million per annum which saves ratepayers paying the City that amount in rates,” he said.

“This amount received represents a 2 per cent rate reduction. In addition, the underlying land values have increased very significantly over the years, thus maintaining and increasing the City’s equity.”

Purchases spark debate

Councillors Nicholas Pazolli and June Barton argued unsuccessfully to reverse a change to the definition of the City’s land and property reserve that paves the way for further land acquisitions aimed at creating “developable land parcels.”

The purchase of property for that purpose was not forbidden under the old definition of the reserve but the City made its future intentions clear by proposing the addition of the following wording to the stated purpose of the fund:

“(To be used to) fund the acquisition of land and buildings in structure plan areas to help encourage the redevelopment of those structure plan areas by assembling developable land parcels and fund demonstration developments in line with structure plan principles.”

The other purposes of the land and property reserve are the acquisition or construction of revenue earning land and buildings, and helping to fund the purchase or construction of community facilities or infrastructure assets.

Cr Pazolli echoed Ms Nicholson’s concerns about speculative property purchases and argued that the potential benefit in terms of ongoing revenue was small when compared to the upfront investment required.

Cr Barton said she did not think it was wise to purchase property for the purpose of development in the current economic climate and said any potential financial benefits were a long way off.

Cr Pazolli’s motion to scrap the addition of the new stated purpose was defeated 11-2.