Touch of luxury in aged care: Richard Buxton

THERE is more to Richard Buxton than being a successful builder-developer and one of Australia’s great modern adventurers.

The famous Buxton property clan member, who operates a private Melbourne business turning over more than $100 million a year, has twice circumnavigated Australia and is planning a five-year around-the-globe journey.

Tonight in Melbourne, the accomplished 62-year-old yachtsman and philanthropist, who suffers from chronic cardiovascular disease, will launch a venture of another kind -- a major fundraiser for Alzheimer’s Australia, releasing his book If Matthew Flinders Had Wings.

The coffee-table book, from which the first $500,000 in proceeds will fund dementia research, is the result of his two circumnavigations of Australia retracing the route of explorer Matthew Flinders when he became the first man to map the entire Australian coastline.partnerships. Together, we share the rewards of the success that comes from doing things well.

With the assistance of daughters Samantha and Annabel as co-pilots, Buxton took 56 gruelling days to cover the 10,000 nautical mile air journey in a single-engine Cessna in 2002-03. His birdseye view of the Australian coastline was not enough for the adventurer who, after sailing around Tasmania in 2000, craved a sea voyage that would truly re-create Flinders’ epic journey.

“I saw a whole lot of coastline during the plane trip, but the problem was I didn’t actually feel it,” he said. The around-Australia sea trip, undertaken in a 12m yacht, took 2 1/2 years, and ended when he sailed back to Melbourne in March 2007.

The 8000 photographs taken on both trips are the basis of the book, which is a photographic reference and history about the discovery of the coastline and how it looks today -- 200 years on from Flinders’ voyage.

It is backed by the Epsilon Research Fund, a charitable foundation set up by the Buxton family to direct profits to medical research.

The patron is John Bertrand, who skippered Australia II to victory in the 1983 America’s Cup. Buxton, a brother of Michael and Andrew Buxton, who operate the MAB Corporation property group, adopted the Alzheimer’s cause when he saw the impact of the illness on his mother and other elderly residents living in his now Stockland-backed Rylands aged-care accommodation chain.

In July last year, Stockland paid more than $34.2m for the management rights to Rylands, a five-star retirement model based on premium properties in premium areas, where the well-off live in the style they’ve been accustomed to.

The Stockland buy-in consolidated Rylands as a top-five retirement operator and telegraphed the group’s intention to go after old money. Famously born out of Buxton’s unsuccessful search for suitable retirement accommodation for his parents, Rylands properties are designed to look and feel like luxury hotels.

In Melbourne, there are three Rylands facilities, at bayside Brighton and equally well-to-do Kew and Hawthorn.

Stockland’s backing as a development partner means more are on the drawing boards in Melbourne’s inner-eastern suburbs.

Rylands’ first interstate foray is a planned development in Brisbane’s Hamilton, with more facilities likely to follow in southeast Queensland.

Sydney is also on the radar, but according to Buxton obtaining suitable sites for five or six-storey apartment-type facilities has been difficult.

“We want facilities in both the eastern suburbs and north shore, but the scarcity of sites means we have to be patient,” he says.

The Buxton name -- a property dynasty spanning more than 150 years -- has meant ready acceptance for Rylands in Melbourne, where elderly residents (average entry age is 78) typically pay $600,000 for a two-bedroom strata title apartment between 85sqm and 90sqm, while larger 120sqm-140sqm apartments have sold for up to $1.3m.

Rylands is an offshoot of the Buxton Construction and Property business, which Buxton started in 1968.

It has been involved in a range of projects, including schools, hospitals, golf courses and marinas.

Its landmark developments include the Werribee Mansion hotel complex and residential projects at the former Swallow and Ariel biscuit factory, Port Melbourne, and the historic Delgany Castle at Portsea.

The company recently won contracts for home ground improvements for both the Richmond and St Kilda AFL clubs.

It is developing 44 apartments in a six-storey project at Port Melbourne and has two more apartment projects -- at Port Melbourne and Armadale -- in the pipeline. Buxton says he is working at the investor end of the market, driven by inner-Melbourne rental demand.