Maxwell Shifman – COO, Intrapac Property

What attracted you to the industry?
My father is a builder and, when growing up, I would help him out at his building sites – labouring, digging holes, carrying bricks and cleaning. I was fascinated by the process of creating something from an empty block of land.

What do you love most about the industry?
I love the challenge of finding land with a point of difference. I also revel in the intellectual effort of masterplanning and designing the developments, and running them through the approval process. The best part is we create things that are tangible and have a huge influence on the quality of life for so many people. You can come back years later, look at your development and feel a great sense of pride in what you have created and what it means to those living there.

What do you consider your proudest moment or greatest achievement?
Personally, winning the UDIA Young Professional Award in 2013 was amazing, but Intrapac winning UDIA Awards in 2016 for Somerfield – Residential Development and Environmental Excellence – was even more satisfying. The project has taken 11 years of extraordinary effort, and it was fantastic for our team to be recognised for the hard work in creating such a special place.

Worst trend?
“Investment grade” housing projects and apartments. Our business philiosophy is based on creating places where people actually want to live, and we do not think there should be such a marked difference in the quality of what is produced for the rental market versus owner-occupiers.

Best change?
The steady reduction in average lot and house size is a positive for the long term. Well-designed medium-density housing provides lower entry prices and lower maintenance, while still providing ample living area for all different types of buyers. It’s actually just a return to how some of our cities’ earliest (and greatest) suburbs were created. With increased density comes vibrancy and better support for local business and services.

If you had the power, how would you improve the process of developing land?
I’d love to reduce the time, effort and cost involved in obtaining development approvals. I see no reason why decisions can’t be made much quicker, with short decision timeframes. I’d also love to see authorities be more pragmatic with their responses. The opportunity is there to provide solutions to potential issues, and truly partner with the development industry, rather than taking an adversarial approach. You can also lose inordinate amounts of time dealing with minutiae on applications, which has a marginal effect on the final result. I’d also love to see decisions assessed in a forward-looking manner, rather than looking back at the past to how things may have been done.

What’s the biggest misconception people have when buying land in a new community?
There are many, but the key one is that all new land developments are effectively the same. There can be enormous differences in what lies beneath the ground, such as infrastructure and services, the quality of the urban design, landscaping and the development’s environmental performance – even when directly adjacent to each other.

If buying and building tomorrow, what features would you most like incorporated in your community?
Great connectivity is a must – virtually via fast internet and physically with good public transport, road and cycling links. Existing facilities are a must – time to important locations is more important than distance. Thoughtful open spaces and a variety of dwelling types to ensure a diverse community. Smart design guidelines and a real commitment to environmental sustainability.

What should buyers look for?
If the development has started, look through the estate to see how the homes and community present. Do the homes and landscaping look good? Is it all maintained? Is the developer delivering what was promised? If buying off the plan, the overall project design and track record of the developer should be serious considerations. Factor in long-term sustainability measures to ensure your home’s value isn’t left behind as community expectations progress.

What do you think new master-planned communities will look like in 2030?
My main predictions include:

  • A continuing decline in land size and proportion of detached homes. We will eventually get a to a point where the majority of new projects will become medium- or
    high-density developments, with a greater proportion of terrace and apartment designs
  • A drop in the reliance on personal vehicle ownership and all the flow-on effects, e.g. reduction in off-street and
    on-street parking requirements, shared cars etc
  • A greater focus on integrating local, walkable community facilities – retail, medical, community gardens
  • A greater mix of uses – commercial and residential more organically integrated into overall plans rather than separated through zoning.

Watch this space!

We'll be revealing the details of our next competition soon