In Architecture, Building, Design, Developers

The Luxury of Tim

Evidently, Tim Gurner is a man not satisfied with ‘the best’. The very concept implies an existing category and an established benchmark of quality and innovation. whereas Gurner’s aspirations are to develop visions beyond the existing paradigm of apartment living, both locally and internationally.

 

It seems a grand vision for a boy raised in a happy middle class family on the outskirts of Melbourne, without much exposure to the world of luxury. But it is fair to say that there are now few developers in Australia whose passion for the luxury product exceeds that of Tim Gurner’s.

A labour of love it must be, given his view that the super luxury apartment market is the most challenging form of development one can undertake. Whereas investment product is a more commercial equation, the high end luxury buyer is a sophisticated and highly knowledgeable client, participating in every detail of the product design and delivery. To do this successfully requires an obsession with design, detail and delivery – a collection of addictions that Tim Gurner has in spades.

From fairly humble beginnings, including a maiden project netting him a grand total of $12,000 to building, operating and selling a gym in Melbourne’s Elwood, Tim Gurner has fashioned a ladder extending ever higher, towards what is to become a global benchmark for luxury living in their new St Kilda offering.

 It wasn’t, however, before he approached veteran Melbourne developer, Morry Schwartz for a role at Pan Urban in the early 2000’s that he would develop a taste for the exceptional. Morry himself has been quoted as saying he knew there was something special about him from the outset and despite his offer to work for Schwartz for free, after their first meeting the young Tim Gurner was gainfully employed. And within two years, held a third of the joint venture business Morry had established for him to run.

 


“Morry introduced me into the arts, design, restaurants and luxury in general – but in a sophicticated rather than ostentatious way.” Says Tim.

 


 

Saint Moritz Penthouse

Nowhere is this distraction with ultra-luxury more evident than in his latest undertaking at St Kilda. There has been no shortage of media attention around GURNERTM’s record-breaking $30m penthouse sale in their Saint Moritz development. The price tag sets a new record for apartments in Melbourne and the astonishing CGI images tell a story that is as much about sheer audacity as it is about style and luxury; most eloquently expressed in the vision of an internal glass pool submerging from its bedroom surface into the living area below.

 

The penthouse alone will feature 800sqm of internal/external living space, seven bedrooms, in-home sauna, gymansium, two private pools and a cascading two-storey water feature – along with other luxuries of the more essential variety, such as a seven car private garage, direct lift access, marble clad walls and 180-degree water views.

Residents will arrive home to a world akin to that of a five-star resort each day, arriving at a 5.5m high porte cochere, to be greeted by personal valet and concierge services as they enter a realm of resort-style luxury, including 5,000sqm of private amenity and a team of loyal staff.

The $550m project development permit is being amended to halve the number of apartments from 240 to 120 to cater for Gurner’s super luxe vision that will infuse each exceptional residence.

Fender Katsalidis were appointed as lead architect with Koichi Takada Architects designing one of the three buildings and esteemed interior designer David Hicks applying his eye to the interiors.

The $550m project development permit is being amended to halve the number of apartments from 240 to 120 to cater for Gurner’s super luxe vision that will infuse each exceptional residence.

Fender Katsalidis were appointed as lead architect with Koichi Takada Architects designing one of the three buildings and esteemed interior designer David Hicks applying his eye to the interiors.

Setting out to be a brand more so than a developer

Perhaps just as impressive as the growth of the product portfolio, has been the growth of the GURNER brand itself and the following and respect it commands.

From the outset, Tim Gurner’s focus was to develop strong brand attributes and a following within the market, which has been achieved through a potent mix of vision, marketing, customer experience and delivery.

The strength of the brand is underpinned by the quality of the projects it has brought to market over the course of the last five years.

Since its establishment in 2014, GURNER  has brought to market such luxurious offerings as Melbourne’s Hawksburn Place Residences by Cox Architects and David Hicks and Albert Place Residences in Melbourne which sold out 140 apartments including a number of amalgamations. The FV collection in Brisbane’s trendy Fortitude Valley brought a New York flavour to Brisbane and sold 981 apartments in 2017 amid concerns of an oversupply in the Brisbane apartment market.

Much like any brand, the quality of the product underpins the perception and longevity of the brand – but it is the extraordinary vision for elevating the luxury experience within each market and the scale at which Tim Gurner tackles this challenge that has catapulted the gurner brand into a leadership position in the space of just five years.

 

“To be viewed as a luxury brand, rather than simply a developer was very important to me from the outset.”

 

The ideals of enduring luxury, style and quality colour every experience that the team deliver.

From display suite staff through to branding and marketing, the end product, and importantly the buyer’s experience through the journey towards receipt of final product, every aspect is curated and crafted.

In ensuring that the brand matches the experience, Tim personally ensures every miniscule detail of a project like Saint Moritz is delivered to far exceed expectations. He has earned a reputation for tailoring homes to the taste of each buyer and the GURNER  brand has benefited enormously from a founder who lives and breathes the company ethos.

 

We view ourselves as an intergenerational brand, appealing as much to a young, aspiring audience as we do to established high net worth buyers – for our lifestyle offering as well as the enduring quality of our end product.”

 

Hawksburn Place Residences

 

The meaning of luxury

 


When asked about what the concept of luxury means to him, Tim is quick to respond that “luxury is a feeling one derives from a product or environment.”


The drivers of that feeling may differ between people – hence his custom approach to product. But ultimately the feeling should remain the same. He goes on to explain that “a custom-designed luxury space should deliver the greatest sense of comfort to its occupant. It must evoke a feeling that you have arrived in the place where you belong.”

In Tim Gurner’s mind, there should be a degree of softness and warmth to the luxury space. For this he trusts his long-time interiors council, Melbourne’s revered designer, David Hicks. This approach is overwhelmingly evident in the spaces that they create, choosing to avoid the hard, ultra modern genre of building, instead opting to create curated and personal environments that offer a sense of their occupants.

Whether it is the accessible luxury of the FV collection catering to Brisbane’s young apartment market or the cross between suburban sophistication and Central Park opulence of Melbourne’s Hawksburn Place, there is a tailored sensitivity to each development the organisation  undertakes.

It may very well be this single insight that sets Tim Gurner apart from so many of Australia’s new  luxury developers. The simple understanding that true luxury is not an item to be packaged. It can not be commoditised – and to try is to negate the very essence of the idea.

As an instinctual marketer though, he seems to embrace the fact that a degree of theatre is necessary in drawing the market’s attention. To this end, the superlative of Saint Moritz is a master stroke in securing the GURNERposition as the beacon for luxury in Australia’s housing market.

 

Government and society

 

Iain’s views on the role of government in forwarding quality development outcomes is a reflection of his thoughts around the arts in general and their lower rung ranking on Australian society’s ladder of interests.

“We live in a country where respect for the arts isn’t high on the list of priorities. All one has to do is take a look at the nightly news and how much of it is devoted to football. It would be dangerous to hold your breath waiting for content on the arts.

I’m not against our sporting culture either. But I do find it curious that we fancy ourselves as an outdoor sporting nation, and yet we’re one of the most obese.”

The implication is perhaps an inability as a nation to take responsibility for our selves and our environments – preferring to be fed a steady and readily accessible diet of fast entertainment, fast food and fast design.

He cites the impending demolition of the much-maligned Sirius building in the Rocks as a sad example of our disregard for the iconic and formative.

“It’s sad to see an icon of such pedigree flogged off to the highest bidder and have it framed as the government demolishing an eyesore for the benefit of the community. It just wouldn’t happen in Italy for example where art and architecture are considered something to be admired and preserved.”

 

“Inspired by the world”

 

When pressed on the topic of what inspires him, he draws on the themes of international travel and the world of fashion, citing labels such as Givenchy, Louise Vuitton and Cartier, along with longstanding capital cities like New York and London, whose built environments are brushed with the colour and texture of centuries old opulence.

In New York, he finds inspiration in the architecture and interiors along the Upper East Side, Meat Packers  and Greenwich, as well as in the renowned hotels of the city, such as the St Regis and the Crosby. He is drawn to those established global hubs whose apartment markets have matured thanks to centuries of density.

 

The maturing of Australia’s luxury apartment market

 

“The opposite has been the case for Australia” Tim says of our housing market.

Only the population growth in major cities over the last two decades has really shifted the focus in the lucky country from being a ‘home owner’ to an ‘apartment owner’. With seemingly unlimited demand chasing a tightly held supply of land, housing affordability has been pushed beyond the reach of great numbers of everyday Australians, for whom the multi-unit home has become the new Aussie dream. To Tim Gurner’s mind, it’s this very  phenomenon that has allowed the GURNER model to thrive.

 


“The affordability issue with housing that we see today has elevated the perception of the apartment in the Australian psyche from an investment vehicle to an aspirational home.”

 


 

Not only has the affordability issue supported the argument for the ‘apartment as a home’ in the new home buyer space, where young executives and families are priced out of the freestanding and semi-detached housing market – but the dramatic uplift in the price of houses has left cashed-up downsizers able to spend big on their new digs.

Thanks to the forces of demand and affordability, a new era of high density living is being ushered in that will see Australian cities begin to emulate the quality of development that has been the standard in the world’s great capitals for centuries.

He expresses a concern though that policy which should be supporting the best version of this inevitable outcome seems, in many cases, to be hindering it by setting standards that are out of step with what is required in order to develop a world-class standard of high density living in our own capital cities.

He insists that government should take a step back and let the market speak for what it wants rather than dictating a fabricated notion as to how people should or shouldn’t live in apartments.

While acknowledging that there are social responsibilities attached to the privilege of developing property, Tim is quick to point out that it’s not a one size fits all marketplace.

“There has to be a degree of flexibility that allows us to assess each opportunity on its own merits, accounting for environmental and lifestyle nuances so we can create the optimal urban precincts and communities of the future.”

 

Markets and the future of luxury development

 

So, while in the short term the macro environment will continue to toy with  sentiment and pricing, a far as Tim Gurner is concerned, the techtonic plates of Australia’s property market have shifted and the vast tracts of land that once housed the hills hoist, three bedrooms and a pool are giving way to the vertical community.

What used to be the playground for the investor is now the home for the young couple, family and downsizer – and the input of time and capital that goes into our homes will almost always exceed that of any investment class property. To Tim Gurner’s view, markets must move and cycles must roll – but some phenomenon never change. Our homes should and will remain places of personal luxuy and familiar comfort.

And for the foreseeable future, there is little doubt that the GURNERTM brand will continue to shape this space, irrespective of the age old economic forces in play. Not simply because the proposition is commercially sound but because, well… what else would a man obsessed with creating luxury do with himself every day?

 

www.gurner.com.au

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