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Militant building union turns developer with Brisbane hi-rise

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One of Australia’s most militant building unions is getting into the property development business in a big way, planning to build a 30-storey tower across the road from its Queensland headquarters.

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The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union has lodged plans for a “build-to-rent” apartment tower in Bowen Hills with more than 370 units on a consolidated block fronting busy Campbell St.

The tower is likely to be a prominent feature of the skyline on Brisbane’s fringe as it will will sit next to the existing Madison Heights apartment block, often described as something of an eyesore given the lack of high-rise buildings around it. It was recently joined by the Panorama apartment tower on Mayne Rd.

Long the bete noir of major builders, the CFMEU has quietly spent more than $10 million acquiring properties for the development over the past two years. The union is pitching the tower as satisfying the government’s recent enthusiasm for build-to-rent developments aimed at workers in strategic employment locations.

In an application to the Queensland Government, planning consultants Urbis cites the proposed tower’s proximity to Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital and the RNA as ideal for people wanting to rent housing near their workplaces.

Urbis said the planned building would be “visually unique and varied whilst displaying a common ‘language’ or series of themes.”

Urbis said the design of the tower would have a maximum building height of 30 storeys, which was consistent with the controls outlined in the Bowen Hills Priority Development Area.

“The proposed development will revitalise the site and immediate surrounds,” it said.

“Furthermore, the proposed development reflects a significant architectural improvement compared to the existing development on the site which can fairly be described as aging and unattractive.”

The completed building will boast a rooftop pool, “yoga lawn” and barbecue areas. It will also have two juliet balconies on each floor designed as common areas for recreation.

“The proposed development is intended to provide a ‘Built to Rent’ offer, which is an emerging housing typology in Brisbane and Australia more broadly,” Urbis said.

“The Build to Rent model promoted for the site in response to clear demand for nuanced housing needs in the Bowen Hills area – specifically designed for rental accommodation.”

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