Superyachts and the Super-Rich: Gold Coast’s Spit Poised for New Era

Tim Gordon chuckles as he recalls the heady days of hovercraft shuttling well-heeled travellers from Brisbane Airport to Christopher Skase’s then newly-developed Sheraton Mirage resort on The Spit.

“Remember that? When you think back … it was incredible in its day.”

Clearly, it left quite an impression on the then young budding Gold Coast property player.

Fast forward more than three decades, the director of Gordon Corporation is himself about to turn dirt—or rather, sand—heralding a new era of development decadence on the 5km-long isthmus north of Surfers Paradise.

And, no, his plans don’t involve anybody being chauffeured around local waterways in amphibious air-cushioned vehicles.

Targeting the rising ranks of the super wealthy, however, there is one must-have marine accessory designed into what will be Australia’s newest and arguably most exclusive waterfront residential and lifestyle address.

Somewhere for ultra high net worth individuals to tie up those superyachts they have been snapping up in record numbers of late.

“They’re all looking for a home,” Gordon says. “And until now we haven’t been able to offer them the facilities … they all want amazing facilities in addition to just mooring a boat.”

With the seed of affluence sown long ago by Skase’s visionary integrated hotel, retail and marina destination, its lavish roots are finally spreading—and quickly.

The Spit is now the focus of a $1.3-billion trio of projects expected to cement it as one of the country’s most sought-after enclaves for the uber-rich. And there will be more to come.

In a matter of weeks, the first shovel to go in the ground since the Palazzo Versace hotel was completed 23 years ago will signal the start of The Spit’s new epoch at Gordon Corporation’s $300-million-plus Mantaray Marina and Residences project.

“It’s exciting times,” Gordon says. “The Spit has been dormant for more than two decades … [and] the response to what we’re developing has been overwhelming.

“We’ve got the first development opportunity the government took to tender, we’re now DA-approved, we’ve just appointed our builder and after a three-year journey we’ll start construction in April.” 

Greenlit by the Gold Coast City Council late last year, it will comprise a 67-berth superyacht marina with moorings for vessels up to 60m, a retail plaza, over-water club lounge and 24 apartments fronting the Southport Broadwater, half with private rooftop pools and some with price tags exceeding $20 million.

Gordon Corporation won the tender from the Queensland government to acquire and develop the 9858sq m vacant site and 1.88ha seabed area at Lot 503 Sea World Drive under a 120-year lease agreement.

It will neighbour a proposed $480-million redevelopment of Mariner’s Cove by Melbourne-based developers Pelligra Group and Giannarelli Group, which will include a Ritz Carlton hotel and more than 5000sq m of restaurants and bars.

Nearby, a $500-million redevelopment of the landmark Marina Mirage retail complex is planned by Makris Group, including 92 waterfront residences and a 110-suite boutique hotel.  

“It’s extraordinary,” Gordon says. “No other precinct in Australia is seeing this level of investment appetite.

“I travel the world a lot and I don’t know anywhere else you’ll find anything similar to what we’re about to create … there’s nothing like it.”

Development has long been a dirty word on The Spit and the irony of what is now emerging on the 200ha strip of sand is not lost on Gordon.

“In a city of towering landmarks, the most significant contribution to the Gold Coast’s evolution in more than 20 years is taking place on its most protected peninsula, and won’t exceed three storeys,” he observes.

Under the The Spit Master Plan, regulations limit new developments to a maximum height of three storeys and 15 metres “so they integrate seamlessly with the landscape”. 

It was released by the Queensland government in 2019 as a blueprint to unlock public and private sector investment to deliver community infrastructure as well as new development opportunities on undeveloped land.

“So, I guess what we’re seeing happening now is the roll out of the development intended under that master plan.

“The cumulative impact of it all will be that there’ll be quite a few more people living there than there have been in the past.”

And given The Spit’s strict planning parameters, its much smaller allowable building envelopes have set a standard that inevitably means more high-end development to enable projects to stack up.

“That’s probably the way it’s going to have to go and the way it is going … [and] I guess what’s going to happen from now on is they’re all going to be at that very high standard, consistently, and it seems like the momentum is building there.

“You’ve got a lot of vacant sites that have been there for a long time that are finally going to be developed. And you’ve also got a lot of sites that are really past their use-by date and they’re going to be refurbished. So, it’s going to be a much better precinct when all of that is complete.” 

Gordon agrees.

“The amenity of The Spit is changing forever and I think that it’ll outclass anything you’ll see in Broadbeach, Burleigh or anywhere else on the Coast,” he says.

“Its got the opportunity to offer a select few an amazing opportunity and it’s unique … you’ve got the Broadwater on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other.

“The government has been extraordinary in its foresight in creating opportunities and then spending the necessary funds to create the infrastructure to allow The Spit to finally become a location not only for the super wealthy and the superyachts but for the general public as well.”

CBRE Gold Coast managing director Mark Witheriff, one of the city’s veteran property dealmakers, recalls sitting wide-eyed at the Sheraton Mirage’s oyster bar shortly after its opening in the late 1980s.

”It was amazing … and later with the opening of Palazzo Versace it changed the Coast,” he says. ”This is the next stage.

“In essence, the government is executing a masterplan that will change the city as a whole.

“We’ve seen a real flight to quality … around Burleigh there’s been some really upmarket and high quality apartments and developments happening but this will be the step above.

 “There’ll be genuine world class apartments and hotels. And, more importantly, the superyachts will be right in the middle of town. It’ll bring in a different demographic.”

Gordon Corporation has spent $5 million on its sales display suite alone for Mandalay Marina and Residences.

“It’s world class,” Gordon says. “I mean, we’ve done no marketing and already we’re getting extraordinary interest. The display opened this week and it’s a private offering so we’re only doing it by appointment-only.

“Quite honestly it’s people who are very well-heeled, predominantly Australians.

“But we’ve also had people from America and overseas that have come in and they’ve never experienced anything quite like what we’re offering.

“You know, we could have built 60 apartments but we’ve chosen only to build 24 to provide the superyacht owners and that higher end of the market an opportunity to buy into something incredibly unique, which is what The Spit is offering.

“Of course, not everybody has got a surperyacht … but I think people are now realising the masterplan is real and it’s a limited offering and won’t be repeated. It will be the most exclusive address.”

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