By now, many of you may have seen the development underway at 2 Swift Street, Port Macquarie – the huge, 1 acre block of land on the corner of Swift Street and Pacific Drive, which commands magnificent views of the ocean and headland.
What many of you may not know is that this block of land has a wonderful family history and has been in the hands of the same family for many years – and despite the multi-million dollar development happening there right now, there are no plans to change the ownership. Nev Jones from Better Homes and Shevaun Bruun, one of the property developers, fill us in …
How long has the property at 2 Swift Street been in your family?
Shevaun: My grandfather, William McLellan, bought the land, and he started construction on the home in 1949. As far as we can tell, he originally owned all the land right along Swift Street, from top to bottom, but he ended up gradually selling off the blocks and keeping the 6 blocks we still own today, which cover from the top of Swift Street, to Pacific Drive and across to Wesley Avenue. The blocks have always been vacant land, except for the block where the original house still stands.
The house on the property was built as a holiday home, as my grandfather was a very keen fisherman. He kept his house in Sydney – the same as we still do today – and he would come here to Port Macquarie regularly for holidays.
I never actually got to meet my grandfather, and when he passed away, my father, who was an only child, inherited the property. My father continued the family tradition of holidaying here – in fact, he spent his honeymoon here. My dad passed away 24 years ago, but we’ve continued to holiday here.
My brother, Andrew McLellan, and I play tag team holidaying here, with he and his family of 4 children and 1 grandchild and me and my family of 2 children taking turns to holiday here over the years. My mother, Diana McLellan, still owns the block, but she has been encouraging us to do something with the land.
It was always Dad’s little bit of paradise – he travelled around a lot selling cameras and always visited here at least once a month. While Dad was alive, he maintained the property, and it always looked like a Botanical Garden. But gradually over the years, the building and the grounds began to deteriorate … We have some funny stories about using gaffer tape to hold things together; or we’d come to visit and the lights would’ve blown, or a tap would be turned on and blow off, or the hot water heater wouldn’t work. My mother, brother and I decided we had to do something … and that’s where the idea of the development all began! We ultimately want to spend more time in Port Macquarie and less in Sydney, but we want to maintain control of the property and the development and keep it in the family.
What have been some of the best memories for you holidaying here?
Shevaun: I’ve been visiting since I was a baby – just as my children have done. We were here every school holidays – so around 12 weeks per year. My dad would use this place as a base while he travelled around for work. We used to have watermelon parties in the backyard, and all the local kids would come. My brother and I learned to drive a Land Rover around the property in circles, and we’d both spend hours riding a mini bike around the property. Dad was a keen fisherman too, so we’d use the Land Rover to drive to Lighthouse and fish from sunup to sunset.
So, what is the development you and your brother Andrew are proposing for the site?
Shevaun: The plans have evolved over time. We started off thinking we might only build 3 or 4 houses, plus two separate residences for Andrew and me and our respective families. The plan was designed so we can all holiday here together and not have to tag team anymore!
Nev: Andrew and Shevaun started developing the plans two years ago and the initial concept has changed quite considerably. There has been a lot of discussion back and forth and a lot of consultation with Shevaun, Andrew and the Council, but we are all determined to get the development right. The development as it stands now has 10 homes – the 2 homes for Shevaun and Andrew, 6 x 3-bedroom townhouses and two more 4-bedroom, two-storey houses. There is the ability for the block to carry an even higher density development, but the family have always been determined that the development would suit the local area and the beach lifestyle. The land itself is around an acre with 3 or 4 fantastic street frontages, so there’s a great opportunity to design and develop something that looks fantastic.
Shevaun: We’ve had a lot of input from our Building Designer James Collins, and the concept has changed multiple times. We didn’t want to end up with something that looked like a resort with swimming pools and acres of concrete, and we didn’t want to overdevelop the land. At least a third of the land has been kept for the 2 houses Andrew and I will own, which will be built where the existing old home stands now. We’re pretty sad at the thought of demolishing the old house, but we know it will have to go eventually.
The development project will obviously unfold in stages, so in what order will the buildings be erected?
Nev: The development will unfold in 3 stages. The first buildings to be constructed will be the 6 townhouses, facing onto Wesley Street, then the other two houses, followed lastly with the two private residences. The first component of the construction is the civil work, which is the sewer work, storm water, electricity and kerb and guttering. This is being done in two stages, with the first stage happening in conjunction with the construction of the 6 townhouses. The second stage of the civil works will cover the remaining 4 homes.
Shevaun: We wanted the development to unfold this way, because we want the old house to remain standing as long as possible. We want to be able to keep coming to stay while the development is being carried out!
What stage is the construction up to at present, and how long do you believe it will take to complete?
Nev: The dwellings have only just started to be constructed, with the pouring of the slabs for the 6 townhouses occurring during April. It will be full steam ahead from there! There will be supervisory and carpentry teams on site full-time from now on. As stage one takes shape, we’ll continue to refine the plans for stage two.
Shevaun: It will probably be a good two years before we get to the stage of finishing the two private residences.
What is the purpose of the 8 buildings that won’t be used by the family as private residences?
Nev: The first 8 homes have been approved as tourist accommodation, which will be professionally managed as boutique accommodation. Knowing that the family is retaining the whole development to run as a business – which is a pretty rare thing – it’s important to have the accommodation cater for a cross section of the market. Five of the townhouses will be the same, and the sixth is slightly larger. Then you move up to the two 4-bedroom homes, which will be able to accommodate up to 8-10 people. The plan is to get the business side up and running first, so there is some income coming in to support the rest of the development.
Shevaun: Escape at Nobbys is what we’ve decided to call the tourist accommodation. The 6 townhouses will be beautifully appointed, and the two 4-bedroom homes will be yet another step above in terms of quality and fittings. They’ll have beautiful views and be in an amazing location. We don’t want to compete with the resorts in the area by offering pools and a children’s playground; we see ourselves as offering more of a home-away-from-home environment that is quiet and relaxing. The beach playground is right across the road!
It would be wonderful to have Escape at Nobbys Stage 1 finished by this time next year (April), but we don’t want to rush things, as everything needs to be perfect before we open for guests.
What do you have in mind for the two private residences?
Shevaun: They are going to be really special … amazing! The garages will be underneath, with two storeys of living space above.
Nev: They are really going to look the part on the corner (Pacific Drive and Swift Street). They will be large homes – upmarket, modern, contemporary beach style.
Where can people find out more about your plans for the property and Escape at Nobbys?
Shevaun: We have a Facebook page and a website that is still under construction: www.escapeatnobbys.com.au
Thanks Shevaun and Nev. Good luck with the development!
Interview by Jo Atkins.
This story was published in issue 78 of Port Macquarie Focus