Creating a community
Set on the picturesque coast of Western Australia, Capricorn Yanchep is a master planned community that – according to the National UDIA Awards – represents the best of its kind in Australia. When complete, the development will include 2700-plus dwellings, and incorporate a range of residential environments, an integrated aged care facility, primary schools, and a commercial centre. It will also be home to a coastal resort, feature water-wise landscaping, and include a plethora of locally-based employment initiatives.
Russel Perry is the CEO ofthe Capricorn Village Joint Venture, the developer of the award-winning community. According to him, Capricorn Yanchep is about “creating a community with a timeless coastal feel – a place where people feel like they are always on holiday.”
“The idea is to create a special place that has a strong coastal character,” he explains. “That character is woven throughout all aspects of the development – it’s in the landscaping, the building materials, and it’s even the colour schemes of the lamp posts and signage.”
“Why have a normal home and a holiday home when you can live your life in a holiday home?” he asks. “That’s what Capricorn Yanchep is. It’s a place where you can have the benefits of living on the coast in holiday mode permanently.”
A place to grow
The story of Capricorn Yanchep actually begins with Alan Bond, a famous British-born Australian businessman who won the America’s Cupin 1983. Bond acquired a very large land holding at the northern extremity of Perth in the mid-1900s. In the 70s, he sold that land to a Japanese company called the Tokyu Corporation. Tokyu held onto the site for many years while the metropolitan area of Perth grew. Eventually, the cost of bringing infrastructure and other services to the area became viable and the Capricorn Village Joint Venture was conceived.
The Tokyu Corporation’s development model has always been to form a series of joint ventures with experienced and appropriate partners. For the Capricorn Village Joint Venture, they formed a partnership between their wholly-owned Australian subsidiary Yanchep Sun City Pty Ltd and the Melbourne-based Capricorn Investment Group. Earthworks and civil construction commenced in late-2005.
Prior to joining Capricorn Yanchep, Perry had served as General Manager of another large outer-area Perth project called Ellenbrook. That project, he says, is widely considered a benchmark for large residential development, not only in Western Australia but Australia as a whole. He was excited about his appointment to CEO for Capricorn because of the potential scope of the project.
“The total land holding originally acquired by Tokyu was the largest singly owned residential cell in metropolitan Australia,” he says. “When it is developed in full, it will be a city at the edge of Perth’s metropolitan area with 150,000 people, 55,000 dwellings and 50,000 jobs.”
Perry’s background includes experience with both the public and private sectors, and over the years he has developed a passion for bringing new master-planned communities to life. He was attracted to the opportunity to “not just sub-divide, but create places where people and families want to stay and grow.” The Capricorn Village Joint Venture represented just such an opportunity.
To date, Capricorn Yanchep has sold approximately 1100 residential lots, and has roughly 600 homes built and occupied. At any one time, Perry estimates that there’s another 100 homes under construction. The project team has divided the land holding into different precincts for community identification purposes. Each precinct is slightly different, and provides a sense of place and ownership to its residents – three of those have been developed to completion, and the project team is a year out from completing their fourth.
In addition to standard residential housing, the land holding at Yanchep incorporates a future neighbourhoodcentre that will consist of retail and medium-density housing developments. The holding also includes a coastal node, home to an existing resort called Club Capricorn – which offers affordable accommodation on the beach, and is from whereCapricorn Yanchep got its name.
Pillars of sustainability
In 2013, Capricorn Yanchep was recognised with theprestigious National UDIA Award for Best Residential Development. The UDIA National Awards celebrate knowledge, skill and innovation in the urban development industry – Capricorn Yanchep was determined to be home to all those things and more.
“It isextremely gratifying,” Perry says of the recognition. “We’re pleased and proud about that. And to apply it commercially, it’s a badge we can attach to our project for marketing purposes.”
Perry credits the high industry honour to, above all else, the development’s commitment to sustainability. He cites a key initiative called Capricorn Tomorrow, which is focused on the three “pillars of sustainability” – community, environment, and economy.
“Firstly, there’s the creation and development of social capital,” he explains. To accomplish that, the management at Capricorn Yanchep works very hard to create new community groups and collaborates closely with existing ones. They have also established a community grants program, holdan annual festival, and sponsors different clubs and organizations.”We have put an emphasis on creating an arts and culture agenda within the community”, Perry says.
“The second element of sustainability is, of course, the environment,” headds. To that end, Capricorn Yanchep has become a UDIA-certified EnviroDeveloper – they were one of the first two projects in Western Australia to meet the criteria for ‘water’ and ‘community’ and have since gone on to meet the criteria for ‘energy’ as well. In each of their subdivisions, Capricorn Yanchep utilises passive energy design and abides by a water-wise agenda.
The developments achieved the ‘energy’ certification from the UDIA for their innovative Eco-Precinct, which is currently nearing completion. That area not only features an energy-conservation layout, but it also includes photo-voltaic cells for every home – allowing people to generate their own power, and even sell surplus energy into the state-owned electricity grid.
“The third element of sustainability is commercial viability and success,” Perry concludes. “There’s no point in all these environmental and social initiatives if you can’t make a go of it financially.” As part of satisfying that element, Capricorn Yanchep aims to not only make the project successful, but also to create employment opportunities and foster local business.
To demonstrate Capricorn Yanchep’s commitment to those aims, Perry tells the story of a local woman who was eager to start up a curry making business, and told astaff member at the CapricornEnterprise Centre about her ambition in conversation. The staffer had a family member at the local aged care facility, so she happened to know that the café within the facility had recently closed down.
“To cut a long story short, the staff member introduced the curry maker to the aged care managementand lo and behold, she started operating the café and making her curries there,” Perry says. “She ended up becoming successful and employed a few more locals to help her out. That’s the sort of enterprise and activity we’re keen to promote.”
Capricorn Yanchep also operates at the cutting edge of technology, which helps to foster and encourage local business. From the very beginning they included fibre optic installation to every home.The technology is not only convenient and attractive for allresidents, it also helps to promote the community to small business people who want to work from home or run a home-based business.
A benchmark project
Capricorn Yanchep fosters exceptionally strong relationships with all of their stakeholders – from community members to the team helping to shape that community. The latter group includes both direct Capricorn staff and the consultants and contractors they work with. All of those people explains Perry, share in his passion for the project.
“They’re all very proud of the outcomes we’re achieving,” hesays. “We’re being held up as a benchmark project – we get lots of visitors and lots of flattering comments. All of our consultants – planners, engineers, landscape architects, surveyors and our civil contractors take a lot of pride in that – and they are out there marketing our project for us, because they speak so highly of it.”
As for the Capricorn’s relationships with community members, Perry reiterates the importance of working closely with them. When Capricorn Yanchep commenced construction in 2005, they were building adjacent to two long-standing coastal settlements – one at Yanchep, the other at Two Rocks. So there was already an active community in place, and Perry admits the people therewere initially nervous about Capricorn coming along.
“But I believe we’ve created some really valuable partnerships with them,” he says. “For example, we’ve established a Community Culture and Arts Network as a not-for-profit incorporated body. There are a number of existing painters, craftspeople and jewellers up there. We’ve organized them into this incorporated body and we’re assisting individuals mount shows and exhibitions, we have just successfully completed our first artist in residence program and are generally promoting that cultural agenda.”
Moving forward, Perry is eager to keep pushing those initiatives and create sustainability and resilience within the developments. He’s excited about how the community has embraced some of those programs, and are now starting to run with them on their own.
“We’re not going to be here forever,” he concludes.“If these sorts of activities are totally run and totally funded by the developer, they’ll just fall away when the developer leaves. I’m keen to develop the structures in such a way that they’ll continue well after we’re gone.”