DAVID KOBRITZ

Friends of UPco

At UPco, we’re fortunate to work with some of Australia’s leading figures in placemaking – from developers and architects to specialist consultants. In this series, we chat to some of our longest standing partners: starting with David Kobritz, Executive Chairman of DealCorp.

Since establishing DealCorp in 1984, David and his team have made quite an impact on Melbourne’s urban landscape, having successfully delivered more than 50 projects. These range from luxury penthouse towers to exciting mixed use developments – and each one reflects DealCorp’s commitment to making enduring contributions that benefit the community.

Thanks for taking the time to talk, David. Maybe we can start by talking a bit about you. What led you to become a developer?

My love of property was really inherited from my father. He migrated to Australia in the early 1950s, and worked very hard – as many migrants did! Having earned some money, he and a few of his friends decided to invest in property. I still remember weekends spent in the back of the car, as they’d drive around Melbourne looking for properties or land to buy.

When I left school, I considered studying architecture but ended up opting for urban planning, which I thought sounded interesting. I completed my degree in the 1970s, spent a few years in London working for an architecture and planning firm, then returned to Australia to work for some consultancies here. After setting up my own planning and project management practice, I met quite a few people in the development game. That led to me establishing DealCorp, initially on a very small scale. We’ve grown since then, of course. I still love what I do because every day is a new challenge – some are positive, some not so positive.

How did you first start working with the UPco team? And how would you describe your working relationship?

Back then it was SJB Planning – and I’d guess it was a good 20 or 25 years ago that we first started working together. It’s been a very long term relationship built over the years, with many ups and downs in the marketplace and culture of planning.

The UPco team really understands our objectives, and they respect the commerciality of our projects. Unlike some planners, who operate in a theoretical bubble, the UPco team have very good understanding of the ‘real world’, as well as all the theory. The planning process has become so much more complex than it used to be – back when I started out, we only needed a couple of consultants and a couple of meetings with Council to get an outcome. Now, we need an army of consultants, and the process can take years. Which is why it’s so important to have planning partners who know just how to get a positive outcome within the complex parameters of today’s planning regulations.

DealCorp and UPco have quite a track record… what are some projects you’re especially proud of?

A couple spring to mind. One is called Polaris – it’s a mixed use development situated on the site of a former hospital that we acquired from State government. It’s a fourteen-stage development we’ve been working on for well over a decade, and we’ve now delivered eleven of the stages. It’s a mix of retail, commercial, new apartments and townhouses, and the conversion of heritage buildings. We had a masterplan that’s been amended a couple of times in response to market changes, and UPco has been intrinsically involved from day one.

Another complex project that’s nearing completion is Glenarm Square, Glen Iris. Here, the government was removing a level crossing and relocating the railway line underground – and as a result, 3000 sqm of surplus land was created, which we purchased. We had to deal with all sorts of stakeholders including VicTrack, MetroTrans, the City of Stonnington and the State Government… reaching agreements with all these stakeholders was a challenging process. But now we’ve nearly finished constructing 120 apartments and 1000 sqm of retail space. Like Polaris, this one’s been a long-term, complex project. UPco has been working on it since the start in 2015, and have been integral in the process and negotiations to achieve a viable outcome.

Any projects in progress that you’re particularly excited about?

Yes, another one that’s a little similar to Glenarm Square is Ormond Station, which we also started work on in 2015. We’ve been through the rezoning process twice, then the planning permit process, and we should be ready to commence construction early next year. It’ll be a shopping centre wrapping around the entry to the station, with 275 apartments above – a big project. After all this time, transcending both a market boom and significant downturn including the Covid era and rising costs, it’ll be great to see it reach fruition. Another couple of smaller projects I’m proud of are the Children’s Court in Dandenong, which we recently handed over, and MCKN, a boutique apartment development in McKinnon that has been very successful.

What is one lesson your career has taught you?

You’ve got to be an optimist as a developer; to always see the bright side of things, because every project throws up challenges and obstacles you never could have foreseen. You need to be resilient. And you need patience… a lot of it! Because development is like a giant jigsaw puzzle that takes a lot longer to manage today than it did in the past.

Thanks for the chat, David, and for continuing to entrust us with your projects. To learn more about DealCorp’s work head to dealcorp.com.au

Cover images courtesy of DealCorp (Glenarm Square / left) and CHT Architects (Dandenong Children’s Court / right)