SYDNEY might boast magnificent harbourside homes and Melbourne the establishment grandeur of some of its more impressive piles - not to mention the chic penthouses both cities offer - but neither has anything that comes within cooee of London's One Hyde Park development. The top price for an apartment is $215 million.
Why not? Is Sydney no longer glitzy enough, its developers not ballsy enough, to develop a place-in-the-south fit for an overseas oligarch? Has Sydney's membership of the world-city club lapsed? Could Melbourne do it instead?
By comparison, Sydney's most expensive apartment was reportedly sold off-the-plan for $25m, in The Residence, which is nearing completion overlooking, coincidentally, the city's own Hyde Park. In Melbourne, the record for an apartment is $19.35m for a pad in the Salta Group's Mercy Hospital redevelopment in East Melbourne.
Meanwhile, the sort of super luxury that One Hyde Park offers in London simply isn't available in our biggest cities, and it doesn't look likely for some time to come.
Are we concerned? Maybe not, but the super rich, with their uber expectations, apparently are. As Colliers International residential director Murray Wood says, "developers have to realise that people are expecting more".
"There is a hunger for it," agrees Tim Breckell, director of Sydney's Vanguarde Estate Agents. "And I do think there will be that project that will pop up in Sydney and really ignite interest in that market".
There was a time, not very long ago, when an apartment that boasted the very best in finishes and fittings, a bathroom for every bedroom, a gym and pool, defined it as super luxury.
And then along came London developers Nick and Christian Candy to raise the bar by offering, in One Hyde Park, an exclusive residential building with SAS-trained bodyguards, a panic room, private wine-tasting room and its own private tunnel to the Mandarin Oriental, where you'll find Heston Blumenthal's new restaurant, Dinner.
"Our clients are rich, but extremely short on time," Nick Candy said earlier this year. "We just try to make their lives easier."
The priciest apartment in the development, a three-floor 2300sq m penthouse (two homes knocked into one), was sold in April for $215m (pound stg. 136m) to a deep-pocketed home-maker from the Ukraine. He is now reportedly planning to spend $60m more doing up the already impossibly lavish interior.
Australia may never see homes of this ilk, but last month Nick Candy was in Sydney and reportedly met executives from US private equity giant Blackstone Group, which owns Gold Fields house at 1 Alfred Street.
Gold Fields has been earmarked for development as a luxury apartment building and there has been a suggestion that Candy, in town with his partner, singer, actress and former Neighbours star Holly Valance, could be interested. If Australia is to get a super luxury apartment development, the Gold Fields House site would be "the opportunity to deliver that type of offering," agrees Collier's Murray Wood, "because it would have world appeal".
"Yes, the concept would apply (to the Gold Fields House site)," says Ken Jacobs, exclusive affiliate of Christies Great Estates.
The market is already there, adds Wood. "We have already had people asking if they (developers) are going to deliver the super luxury that we've all been waiting for."
Prospective buyers would be people "that have a reason to invest in Australia -- whether they have businesses here, whether they have horses here -- not just speculative investment," he says, adding that the Gold Fields House redevelopment "would have world appeal. Not only in Asia, but in Europe and the Americas."
Development at this level, needless to say, doesn't come without risks. As even developers with the Midas touch have found, One Hyde Park might have been a hit for the Candy brothers, but three major projects have fallen through in recent years, including an apartment block in a former Beverly Hills department store in the US and one on a former hospital site in Bloomsbury in central London.
In Hong Kong, meanwhile, at 39 Conduit Road, a luxury 46-storey residential tower built by Henderson Land Development at a price of about $66m (the priciest apartment per square metre ever sold) was reportedly agreed to in October 2009. It was one of 25 units in the lavish development for which deposits were taken.
The deposits for 20 of these apartments were then subsequently returned, market manipulation was alleged and the government investigated the sales. Apartment sales in the newly completed building were launched late last year.
If Australia is to create super luxury at this level, everything about the development will have to be spot-on, and that, apparently, rules out anywhere but Sydney.
"Sydney is always going to be the one," says Ken Jacobs. "There are more reasons for the case -- natural attributes, regional significance and population all come into play here."
"It has to be Sydney," Breckell agrees. "Honestly, Melbourne is Sydney's poorer cousin. And I don't mean that by its per square metre rate, which is trending right up; it's the picturesque harbour, it's the lifestyle in Sydney, it's the prestige element in Sydney that Melbourne will always aspire to, but I don't think it will ever quite hit it."
Nothing less than direct-north-facing views of Australia's two main engineering and architectural symbols -- the bridge and the Opera House -- will do. So that rules out Barangaroo.
"Barangaroo will add some stock, but whether the western harbour will be seen as super luxury will be interesting," Wood says. "Clearly, the bridge, Opera House and the true north-facing CBD has a lot of cachet."
"It won't happen at Barangaroo," says Jacobs.
Gold Fields House site it is.
Not that it's going to happen anytime soon, because even if the site does end up becoming an apartment tower with super luxury characteristics it will be another few years before the first wealthy individual with a taste for uber luxury will be able to put their key (or, rather, trigger the iris recognition device) in the front door.
HIGH AND MIGHTY
What the super rich expect in a super-luxury apartment: (The benchmark: One Hyde Park, London).
- Iconic architecture by a world-renowned and award-winning architect (Richard Rogers)
- Unobstructed views (London's Hyde Park)
- A platinum location (Knightsbridge)
- A cinema
- A pool
- Spa facilities
- Golf simulator
- 24-hour room service
- Underground tunnel to adjacent hotel and a Heston Blumenthal restaurant
- Special Air Service-trained security
- Panic room
- Bullet-proof windows
- Iris and fingerprint scanning
- Specially commissioned art
- Polished-metal panelled walls
- Custom-made chandeliers
- Skylights set on timers to wake you up to a soundtrack of soothing music
- Artworks that rotate to reveal television screens