CostaFox: New Name, New Management and a Big Pipeline

Melbourne-based boutique developer CostaFox has relaunched with a new name, new management and a project pipeline of $1.2 billion.

Michael Fox—one half of the nearly seven-year-old former company—steps down as managing director to pursue his own developments, making way for Geno Hubay who joined the company in 2016 as a senior development manager.

Hubay becomes managing director of the new company, which will be known as Monno.

The new entity will be in partnership with chairman Robert Costa of Costa Asset Management. The wealthy investor and former mayor of his hometown of Geelong was a co-founder of CostaFox.

“Monno is a natural progression for the business,” said Hubay, who left a senior management role with Mirvac to join CostaFox, where he eventually became a director and part owner.

Monno boasts seven live residential and commercial projects across Greater Melbourne and the Bellarine Peninsula.

However, Hubay (pictured above, on left with Robert Costa) told The Urban Developer they would now focus on their $125-million Geelong waterfront residential development known as Stella Maris.

That Bay Street, Rippleside development will see 53 high-end apartments and town homes in four buildings around a 19th century convent. The Italianate mansion known as St Helens was built in 1848—one of the earliest mansion houses in Geelong—and acquired by the Sisters of Mercy in 1923. It was renamed Stella Maris (Star of the Sea) and used as a convent and teaching institution.

Monno has engaged two Melbourne-based design firms, Rothelowman and Carr Design, to return the mansion to its former glory as a single coastal residence, with a contemporary rear addition on 3000 square metres.

Hubay said Monno expected to break records for a single house sold in Geelong when Stella Maris comes to market later this year. He would only say the price tag would be in “double figure millions”.

Monno acquired the 1.25-ha property from the Catholic charity MacKillop Family Services for $11.3 million in February last year in an off-market deal.

The development was approved by Greater Geelong Council but held up when a group of residents—all in adjoining Helen Street—appealed to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal over the likely impact of traffic.

VCAT ruled in favour of the development in September this year but with some changes, including vehicle access and traffic patterns.

Hubay said the Stella Maris development is likely to begin construction early next year but Monno had yet to settle on the land.

“The idea was that we will have sold a number of the residences prior to settling on the land,” he said. “If we would have settled earlier we’d now be paying interest on the land. So it’s a better outcome for us.”

Marketing of the development is expected to begin later this month, and again, Hubay is expecting to set local records.

While one-bedroom apartments will start at $595,000, the three-level complex with basement parking also includes six penthouses of three and four bedrooms. Those will sell from between $4 million and $6 million.

“We actually have a number of apartments already on reserve and two of those will be the highest prices ever achieved in Geelong.”

Hubay said the Geelong record was $4.2 million.

Monno’s pipeline includes a $280-million redevelopment of the heritage-listed Robur Tea House in central Melbourne, which was approved by the Future Melbourne Committee of the city council in August.

Monno bought the property for $28 million mid-2019 and plans to build a mixed-use precinct comprising a hotel, high-end apartments, office and retail spaces as well as a basement carpark.

Hubay said they had recently signed an as-yet-unnamed international hotel operator for the venture. The operator would be coming to the country for the first time.

And the developer expects to complete construction on a $65 million, new-generation office building in Gordon Street, in Melbourne’s Cremorne by the end of next year.

“We have always strived for peerless locations, the never-to-be -epeated opportunities,” Hubay said. “Probably a residential flavour is where we’re heading, but that doesn’t limit commercial. They’re mostly larger, mixed-use projects.”

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