Southport Queensland
A Gold Coast commercial sales specialist has called for an overhaul of the development approvals process, in a bid to rejuvenate Southport’s waning developments sector. Image – Canva
  • Gold Coast commercial agent says Southport's PDA has not worked as intended, urgently needs an overhaul
  • Says some developers are not taking DA process seriously and tenants have development threat looming overhead, leading to stagnation of area
  • Calls for the council to impose stricter development approvals process, including raising costs and introducing feasibility study

A prominent Gold Coast commercial agent is calling for the development approvals (DA) process to be revamped in a bid to revive Southport’s lackluster property sector.

Adam Grbcic, sales specialist at Kollosche Commercial, said the Southport CBD has failed to thrive despite plentiful advantages that should it make it an ideal location for the city’s CBD.

The  Southport courthouse and legal precinct, light rail network, TAFE and private education groups, and access to the Broadwater Parklands and major arterial roads are among the several drawcards of the area.

Despite these factors however, the area has remained stagnant in terms of development, an issue that Mr Grbcic says could be fixed with significant changes to the DA process.

Issues with Southport PDA a cause for concern

According to Mr Grbcic, the establishment of the Southport Priority Development Area (PDA) has paved the way for DA’s to be fast-tracked, but has overlooked several issues in doing so.

Launched in 2013, Mr Grbcic said the Southport PDA intended to attract developers on a national and international scale to invest in the coastal suburb.

However, the PDA has instead resulted in several tower projects not being brought to fruition because they were never financially viable.

Simultaneously, existing commercial premises are not being upgraded as tenants with demolition clauses in place are not willing to risk renovating if the premises will soon be replaced by a new development.

“However, we need a new approach, because it clearly hasn’t worked as intended.”

Adam Grbcic, Kollosche Commercial

Adam Grbcic Kollosche
Adam Grbcic, Kollosche. Image – LinkedIn.

“What has happened is plenty of land banking by developers but little evidence of tower plans making it beyond the planning phase. Meanwhile some would-be developers have also used the PDA to fast-track approvals with the intention of selling the site with a DA in place because there is a perception that it makes the site more valuable.”

He added that while a DA has the potential to add value to a site, it’s generally only if the approval has been through the material change of use process and achieved extra height, density or additional land uses.

Urges council to introduce stricter conditions

While these issues may be a fundamental flaw in the Southport PDA, there are changes to the approvals process that could alleviate these concerns.

Mr Grbcic is advocating for a method to be introduced to vet whether or not developers are serious about delivering a development to the CBD.

“There is no point approving 200 units on a site where the owner doesn’t have the financial capacity or intention to deliver the project in the first place,” he said.

He also proposed that the council begin to require developers to lodge a feasibility/needs analysis alongside their application, which should include construction costs to prove the project is viable.

“When the development cost and demand for these proposals are highlighted, it will often demonstrate the highest and best use is not a high-rise residential tower.”

Adam Grbcic, Kollosche Commercial

“This would reduce the workload for already overstretched council officers while helping to ensure the DA’s being approved are feasible and realistic.”

Additionally, Mr Grbcic would like to see DA’s remain valid for a shorter period, and for application costs to be decreased to discourage developers who are not serious.

“Landowners should consider repositioning their assets to retail, office or mixed-use which would include removing demolition clauses that act as a barrier to long-term tenants who tend to invest in capital upgrades and fitouts for their businesses,” he said.

“Alternatively, landowners inserting demolition clauses could look at either inserting this into the second or third term of a lease and offsetting the impact with a relocation clause or consider reimbursing fit out costs if the demolition clause is enforced.

“This achieves the twin aims of improving the property’s value while also preventing it from becoming a disused development site,” Mr Grbcic concluded.

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