Buxton fills in gaps in illustrious career

By Nick Lenehan 15 December 2010.

Richard Buxton, the third son in the fourth generation of the well-known Melbourne property clan, has a new career. After four decades running a large construction business, Buxton is now focused solely on development.

Now 64, he made the shift one year ago, selling his construction business into a management buyout.

The Buxton Group is aimed at boutique residential developments, on inner urban sites.

It is the single issue that planners, architects, politicians and residents - in Melbourne and other Australian capital cities - agree is the most difficult, and necessary to tackle: how to get medium-density projects into infill sites.

Buxton says that the "small is beautiful" slogan is the one that best describes his new vision.

Not for him, the large-scale projects of Docklands, South Yarra and Southbank.

"There, it is too much and too big," he says, "It's a concrete jungle that part of the world. It's very difficult these days to fund, both from a development point of view but also from a selling point of view."

"If you go to some of the great cities around the world like Paris or New York, you see these infill, fantastic modern developments. They are not too big. They are just medium size, 40 to 70 apartments."

The focus on smaller projects answers the anxiety of lenders too. Buxton has been meeting with the major banks in recent weeks.

Larger developments mean an increased risk at settlement, especially if most of the buyers are from offshore. Spreading the lending over a number of smaller projects lessens the risk.

Another element to Buxton's new modus operandi is his focus on winning the confidence of local councils for his projects.

"You've got to have some patience and you can't rush it," he says. With the planners and bankers on side, Buxton is pursuing his new ethic.

The first project is the $40 million Luna development in St Kilda, with 76 one and two-bedroom apartments designed by architects Elenberg Fraser.

Buxton is project managing a residential tower project in Port Melbourne for a Chinese investor and he is developing another Port Melbourne project with Beck Properties.

It's not a crowded workbook and Buxton plans to keep it that way.

"It would defeat our ability to concentrate on delivering iconic projects. They need a lot of time and to concentrate on a project is hard to do when you have too many."

Buxton has seen the property game from most of its angles and in most of its cycles.

The family real estate firm began in the 1860s and Buxton's three other brothers are all working in different sectors of the industry. "Spokes on a wheel," he says.

Brothers Michael and Andrew are behind MAB Corporation while the eldest brother Tom runs a quarrying business.

Richard Buxton's career began in 1968 when he lest the University of Melbourne where he studied building science, to work with a small builder.

Soon after he started out on his own and over the next four decades worked his way through the gamut of construction - from cottages and villa units to small apartment buildings, to golf club houses and schools, and even marinas.

Among his biggest projects were a big residential development called the Anchorage in Port Melbourne, which he also developed with his brothers, and the Rylands retirement villages.

Buxton has gone through the full cylce and now devotes his time to hands-on, iconic projects.