Brisbane's Time To Shine As The Lifestyle City

24th Jul 2019

On the heels of the city's successful James Street and Calile Hotel development in Fortitude Valley - by the Malouf, George and James families - Wilson has just renovated the late 1800s building he owns, which houses Brisbane’s iconic French restaurant C’est Bon, on Stanley Street in Woolloongabba - near the famed Gabba Brisbane Cricket Ground, and just 15 minutes' drive from James Street.

He owns four heritage buildings on Stanley Street and is eagerly anticipating construction starting on the Brisbane Cross River Rail into the Gabba Brisbane Cricket Ground, which will further invigorate the area.

Talking to The Australian Financial Review Magazine about Brisbane's change over the past decade, Wilson expressed concern that the city not become a victim of  poorly built and excessive housing developments.

"I've lived in London, France and Sydney and what I love most about being back in Brisbane is that we have unique architecture we need to preserve - not turn the city into cookie-cutter McMansions," said Wilson.

Standing in the landscaped tropical garden of his rambling old Queenslander home on Highgate Hill's posh Dornoch Terrace, he points across the Brisbane River to highrise developments: "Look at that el cheapo block there. They flog the apartments for $299 [thousand each] and hope the suckers don't realise they'll fall apart in 10 years."

Turning to examples of good property development, Wilson is upfront that the Calile Hotel and surrounding James Street retail precinct has provided inspiration as a development "done right with the confidence to do it 'our way'''.

"James Street is unlike anything you would find in any other Australian capital city. For me, it's the moment Brisbane said: OK, let's do a great precinct, but it won't be grungy Melbourne Lygon Street or slick Sydney Double Bay. It will be done our way celebrating the outdoor subtropical climate. This time, let's not copy or try to be anyone else. Let's just interpret us."

Wilson had a long career in London and Sydney in the investment industry before returning to the family's grand old Queenslander home. He's well acquainted with the local Brisbane property market, having served as chairman of the South Bank Corporation for 16 years, when that area of the city was reinvigorated as a public precinct.

"Brisbane is undergoing a huge expansion phase," Wilson says. "You can't stay a lovely country town with huge blocks of land bordering the city's CBD when the population is growing so fast - more than 2.3 million people now, with Greater Brisbane tipped to hit six million in under 30 years."

Much of the population growth is from migration. Former Chinese national and Melbournite the artistic director of Queensland Ballet, Li Cunxin, moved from Melbourne to Brisbane in 2013 to take up his role, and is anticipating the new $12 million state-of-the-art ballet academy being built at Kelvin Grove State College, funded by the Queensland government. The facility is due to open in 2020.

"I've been so pleasantly surprised by life in Brisbane," Li said. "The community has really rallied behind us.

"It's such an exciting time to be in Brisbane with so much happening, from James Street to the new airport runway. You can sense the pulse, and the rhythm.

"When I first moved up here, I felt Melbourne had more to offer even if Brisbane has better weather. But the past few years, I've felt a change. Brisbane feels like home now and I really do love it."

(Source: Australian Financial Review)