Glittering skyscraper plans fall over, buyers refunded

At least 581 apartment buyers have been left in the lurch after a Singaporean developer pulled the plug on a glittering 71 storey Melbourne tower following a long and bitter legal battle that undermined the project.
Nanjing Night Net

Developer CEL Australia, a subsidiary of Singapore-listed construction giant Chip Eng Seng, will be forced to refund an estimated $50 million in buyer deposits after cancelling its Tower Melbourne project.

Tower Melbourne’s failure is the first breakdown of a major city project in years.

The tower designed by architects Elenberg Fraser was set rise 220 metres on the corner of Bourke and Queen streets.

Apartments in the project were controversially sold to buyers in 2013 before CEL had received planning approval after it was advertised as “an iconic place to live in the world’s most livable city.”

In a major upset, CEL’s glittering tower plans clashed with another project proposed by a deep-pocketed neighbour – a company controlled by the wealthy Singaporean Chow family – who launched vigorous legal action.

The subsequent clash turned Tower Melbourne into one of the city’s longest running and most litigious real estate disputes.

The rivals launched half a dozen cases – two Supreme Court appearances, a Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal case, several Building Appeal Board (BAB) sittings and a formal complaint to Victoria’s ombudsman.

“Over the course of the past four years, CEL Australia has faced significant delays in the construction of its Tower Melbourne project, due to numerous legal disputes with an adjoining landowner,” CEL said Friday.

The numerous delays has pushed the prospect of building Tower Melbourne beyond the date of registration in buyers’ contracts, forcing the company to abort the project.

“CEL Australia has concluded that regrettably, Tower Melbourne in its current form is no longer viable for the company to develop,” it said.

“As a result, CEL Australia is left with no choice but to cancel all the outstanding purchaser contracts.”

CEL said it was informing purchasers about the cancellation and would pay back buyers’ deposits in full with any interest they had accrued.

“As at the date of this announcement, there are 556 sale contracts,” the group said. Buyers of the remaining units had already requested their contracts be terminated, it said. iFrameResize({resizedCallback : function(messageData){}},”#pez_iframe_tipstar_630″);

The legal battle that engulfed the project is still ongoing.

CEL’s plot at 160 Queen Street has sat silent for years, wrapped in scaffolding and screens with an idle crane perched on top and the company said it was now considering other options for the land including selling it.

The failure of the tower would not have a “significant impact on the net tangible assets and earnings per share” of the compnay this year. CEL said.

The developer’s other projects, Williamsons Estate Townhouses and Willow Apartments in Doncaster, were not affected.

It has recently acquired additional sites both in Melbourne and other Australian states on which it will launch projects in the second quarter of next year.

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