West Hills Development Going Strong
In May, 2018, we caught up with Mario Prinsloo, Development Manager at West Hills to learn about the development. Recently, we checked back in with Mario, joined by Shelley Clark, new home consultant at the West Hills Information Centre, to get an update on the project as 2018 draws to a close.
Interviewer: How’s progress at the site?
Mario Prinsloo: We’ve just shot some drone footage of stage one showing new roads formed as well as house construction underway – suddenly it’s very real, and progress is quite dramatic. Our earthworks are well advanced, and infrastructure is starting to take shape. We’ve 17 new homes under construction, the first show homes should be finished quite early in the new year. So, the plans are now coming to life quite quickly, and it feels really exciting.
Interviewer: Now that we’re building houses, and selling homes, what stands out as the unique selling points for West Hills?
Shelley Clark: The diversity of types of homes – from one-bedroom to four-bedroom homes, and from standalone houses, terraces and duplex homes. By working with three different architects on stage one, there’s also a range of looks and styles of homes, but all within a beautifully-designed masterplan. Universal’s core values are also key, the fact that these are high-quality homes for their price-range, and no progress payments is something that customers also highlight.
Mario Prinsloo: There’s a lot of interest in the fact this is a new geography for urban living, close to the North Shore, the West Coast and Auckland city. At the same time, it’s a fantastic location where the infrastructure is already in place – the upgrade of the north-western motorway is almost complete, and the NorthWest Shopping Centre, just down the road, is already one of the city’s finest town centres with more to come. Secondly, it’s a focus for new investment. Buyers know that everything being built is new – new roads, new water systems, new fibre, and eventually new light rail.
Interviewer: What are some of the features of the site that make it a great place to live?
Mario Prinsloo: People who think they know what Massey is like need to remember what Ponsonby used to be like. Then they should visit the NorthWest Shopping Centre, and they’ll see that this is an area that is very much up-and-coming. It’s a focus of major investment and so now is a very good time to get involved here. Everything from reserves to other community amenity is having money spent on it because under Auckland Council’s plans, this area will become home to tens of thousands of new residents, and the planning and investment is already going in to support this.
Interviewer: What’s significant about this as a development where Universal Homes owns and has full control of the site?
Mario Prinsloo: There are many, many things we are doing that casts a new mould. We have had to look outside the square to find ways to work at pace and in a highly-collaborative fashion. Things will really get interesting as we look forward to stage two. We will be finishing stage one civil works, starting on stage two earthworks and then civils, and all the while building houses. It is a hive of activity across a large area and the co-ordination and integration challenge is enormous. Therefore, it’s not like the traditional sequence for the preparation and presentation of super lots and then building. Because we are across everything in this vertical integration, we can plan, construct and build as we go, and roll out the project more quickly and achieve great results at the same time.
Shelley Clark: That long-term overview allows a very cohesive approach. We can think about all the aspects that residents might consider. When we develop a super lot in someone else’s development, we always apply strong design principles, but at the end of the day we can’t control what someone else might do next door at the next super lot. At West Hills, we can take care not to put a man hole in a footpath where we know there will be cyclists or walkers. We can also ensure a home is designed with an outlook that doesn’t impinge upon another home – because we’re thinking right through the whole development. So, we can achieve the buzz and fun of urban density, but with really great private home spaces as well. It’s a really wholistic view.
Interviewer: How did the first Information Evening for first homes buyers go, and what was the response from attendees?
Shelley Clark: It went really well. We took them through the virtual reality tour of West Hills. We had a nice-sized group of people which meant the discussion was very interactive and covered a broad range of issues from financing and valuation as well as resident society associations. We had ASB on board which was great in terms of going through the process of financing a new home which was a focus of a lot of questions. A number of first home buyers didn’t think they were able to embark upon this process, but thanks to the information provided, one attendee followed up with ASB, obtained finance and has bought a house at West Hills. Participants told us how valuable they found it, so we’ll consider more sessions like this in 2019.
Interviewer: What’s been the market response to West Hills homes coming onto the market?
Shelley Clark: There’s been a lot of interest because it’s a new development and because the infrastructure is already here, and we can show customers a pretty complete view of what it will look like. We’ve released just 33 homes so far but already have a list of prospective buyers interested in current and future properties. West Hills appeals to first home buyers, but also to those looking to upsize. We are seeing appeal across a range of ages, as well as cultural backgrounds – my sense, based on our first buyers as well as our range of interest is that the community forming here very much represents the future face of Auckland, a diverse but integrated community.
Interviewer: I hear you’ve had the armed offenders on site, the fire brigade and others?
Mario Prinsloo: We’ve factored into our development plans opportunities for the police and other emergency services to use parts of the site ahead of our requiring them for our development. Yes, we’ve had the armed offenders and the fire brigade come in for training exercises where they can offer their teams training based on arrival at an unknown location. This provides a live situation over and above their regular training simulation areas which become familiar. So, yes, the fire brigade set fire to a house slated for demolition. We’ve had a very positive response from the services, and we’re delighted to support community services like this whenever we can.
Interviewer: How different will the place look and feel in a year’s time at the end of 2019?
Shelley Clark: In a year’s time we’ll be taking people through the show homes and there will be completed stage one homes to see as well. We’ll also be in our new visitor information centre next door which will offer a whole new level of visitor experience. It’s amazing how far we’ve come in a short time, but the pace of development a year from now will be that much more exciting.
Mario Prinsloo: Those mounds of earth next to us will have been contoured into the rolling hills of West Hills that we can see in our designs – the West Hills logo gives you a feel for this lovely gentle rise landscape. We will be further down the track with our integrated planning, infrastructure and home building process with stages one and two really taking shape. As Shelley’s mentioned, our new, permanent Information Centre next door is going to be really impressive.
Interviewer: How valuable to the project has it been getting this Information Centre up and running?
Shelley Clark: It’s helped immensely. We’ve had really good numbers of visitors coming through and they express how impressed they are with the comprehensiveness of the information we can provide, including the virtual reality tour. That’s why we are selling the homes off plan, – they can see how they fit into the development, look at plans, take a virtual tour through the home and see the virtual outside of the home. People are surprised by the level of information they can see right up front. There is always going to be a need for good quality, affordable homes, and that’s the essence of West Hills.