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Milton Apartment Market Gets A Boost

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Australian Financial Review

Matthew Cranston

Billionaire Lang Walker is taking a punt on Brisbane's inner-city apartment market, picking up a pre-approved development site at Milton.

The site, formerly owned by a company linked to Sydney businessman John Hayson, already has development approval for two towers, of 12 and 20 storeys.

It is a big move for Mr Walker, who is known for making countercyclical investments. He snapped up a retail development site on the Gold Coast for $17.5 million early last year.

While Brisbane has a growing supply of new apartments, sales activity has started to come out of a trough with a flurry of activity in the last quarter of 2011.

"There is growing demand in Brisbane from young city workers wishing to live closer to the CBD," Mr Walker said.

"The project is well positioned to capitalise on both the recovery in the Brisbane residential market and the continued gentrification of the inner-west area," he said.

Mr Walker, who has long voiced his reservations about planning processes in NSW, is optimistic about Queensland's development future.

"Walker Corporation is committed to developing a vibrant and cohesive new residential development at Milton, providing a high level of amenity and infrastructure that will complement the population growth in the area," he said.

Mr Walker did not disclose how much the Milton development site cost, however titles searches show the former owner paid more than $5 million for the land alone.

Construction of the 243 one and two-bedroom apartments, 291 car parks and 850 square metres of retail would start in the next few months, Mr Walker said.

The purchase is highly strategic, as it is diagonally opposite The Milton, listed property developer FKP Property Group's $200 million project.

The Milton, which is offering 298 apartments, is close to 50 per cent pre-committed and was, until now, the only major residential development going ahead in the suburb.

Local private developer Kevin Seymour had purchased the old Milton Tennis Centre and saw council knock back his development application for the site following a powerful local groundswell against high-density living in the suburb.

Soon after the Seymour Group recalibrated the development application then lord mayor Campbell Newman announced council would buy the land and turn it into a park.

Mr Walker's project fronts Milton Railway Station and will also be aimed at the state government's $10,000 building boost grants, with one-bedroom apartments priced under $420,000 and two-bedroom apartments below $550,000.

"Our project will provide high-quality, yet affordable accommodation for young people who want to live less than 2 kilometres from the CBD to enjoy its nightlife, restaurants, cafes and shopping," Mr Walker said.