More than two-thirds of the apartments of an innovative housing development have already bought, the people behind the project revealed this week.
The team behind Nightingale Ballarat said the "overwhelming response" had prompted them to decide to press ahead with their plans, which are the first they have undertaken outside of Melbourne.
Around 70 per cent of the apartments for the project, described as "Ballarat's first carbon neutral apartment building", have been sold following a ballot process that took place last month.
This means 19 out of 27 proposed apartments, slated for 11 Davey Street in Ballarat Central, have been purchased before the planning application for the project has been put on public advertising.
Jennifer Kulas is the project lead for Nightingale Housing, which is known for its sustainable design as well as its unusual approach to sales, which bypasses estate agents and limits profit for investors to 15 per cent.
She said the interest in the Ballarat project was so positive, it had prompted the project team to exercise their option on the site, which is currently occupied by warehouses.
Ms Kulas said that while take-up for a similar Melbourne-based development would probably have reached 100 per cent, the response in Ballarat was enough to convince them to go ahead.
One of those who hopes to live there is social worker Claire, who moved to Ballarat just over two years ago and has just agreed to buy a two-bedroom apartment.
Claire said a visit to Nightingale One in Brunswick had helped her to make up her mind. She is hoping to go car-free - apartments do not come with car parking automatically included - and said that the project's environmental credentials were a big draw.
However she said the sociable design was ultimately the key. "I think the main thing is the sense of community, not just for residents but also for people who live nearby," she told The Courier. "There's spaces where people can come together. The fact that you get to meet the residents before hand, that suited me as well."
Plans for the rooftop space include laundry facilities, gardens and communal spaces.
It is a really exciting opportunity for the city. I hope that Ballarat is ready for something like this.Claire, prospective buyer
The project team had paid several visits to Ballarat to gauge community interest. They had an option on purchasing the site, which they would not have exercised had the interest not been there.
The designs put forward include plans for a cafe at ground level, with apartment balconies designed to open up either on to Davey Street or a "lushly vegetated eastern boundary".
A central courtyard is designed to divide the building mass into two, with a four-storey block to the west and five storeys to the west.
The building will also be designed to be as energy efficient as possible, and will not include gas plumbing. Electricity is also generated from on-site solar panels and certified green energy.
There is an allocation of 20 per cent affordable housing for the developers, as well as 20 per cent set aside for 'key community contributors', like nurses, paramedics and teachers or those in creative industries.
The Nightingale team say Ballarat's growing creative community, rail links to Melbourne and growing local economy make it "an ideal location for Nightingale's first regional project."
They are following up on the success of developments in Melbourne, in particular its Nightingale One project in Brunswick.
The City of Ballarat's director of infrastructure and environment Terry Demeo confirmed that the council is currently working through details with the developers.
He said the presence of a project such as this was "manna from heaven" from a council perspective. One of the council's key planning objectives is to increase the number of CBD residents, which has stalled and even decreased in recent years.
"There is no downside as far as we are concerned," Mr Demeo said.
A few elements of the planning process are still under discussion with town planners, with the plans expected to be advertised for comments on the City of Ballarat's planning website within a few weeks.
Ms Kulas said that the remaining eight apartments would be sold on a first-come, first served basis.
She said she hoped building would begin in early 2020, with the project team aiming for apartments to be completed around September 2021 if everything goes to plan.
Claire, meanwhile, said she thought it was "a really exciting opportunity" for the city. "I hope that Ballarat is ready for something like this," she said.
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