Malaysia's OSK Property has begun the first residential stage of $2.8 billion mixed-use project in Melbourne's Southbank, one of the largest single development proposals ever put to the state's planning authorities.
The six-tower project is a joint venture between Malaysian pension fund, Employees Provident Fund, one of the largest such funds in the world, and the property arm of OSK Group, a conglomerate with interests in banking, construction and hospitality as well.
Four Asia-based banks have come in to finance the massive project after local lenders proved unwilling to take the risk, according to OSK executive chairman Tan Sri Ong Leong Huat.
"Much as we want to use the Australian banks here, but in recent days the Australian banks say they are very restricted in financing development projects, especially (with) foreign investors coming in," Mr Ong said.
"So they are rather careful in doing that. But we have global banks. They say 'Your company is very progressive, your balance sheet is good, you're very experienced. Okay. We can fund you, go and do it'."
Malaysia's biggest bank, Maybank, has joined Bank of China, Standard Chartered and ICBC to fund the project.
Designed by Cox Architecture, almost a fifth of the huge site will be devoted to public realm with a park, a shopping centre, childcare facility, and specialty stores.
The first stage of the development, known as Melbourne Square, is two residential towers of 54 and 69 levels, comprising 1048 apartments.
Some 58 percent of that first stage is sold, with 55 per cent bought by local buyers, according to CBRE's Andrew Leoncelli, who is handling sales.
Increased stamp duty for foreign buyers and the pull back by local banks from had put a brake on offshore buyers, Mr Leoncelli said, but there was plenty of interest locally to offset that.
The Malaysian developer paid a record $145 million to acquire the city fringe site in June 2014 from interests associated with the Mario LoGiudice's Banco Group.
Multiplex is constructing the first stage. When complete, the entire project will have 2,600 apartments, a hotel and serviced apartment tower, a commercial office building, along with Woolworths' first first full-line supermarket in Southbank
Still, that's relatively small beer for OSK, which has developed entire townships of 15,000 houses back home in Malaysia.
Mr Ong hopes Melbourne Square will be one of the first distinct impressions of the city for visitors arriving from the airport who exit the tollway near the OSK development.
"This will be the symbol, the landmark. That is our vision."