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Don't Back Down featuring Bruce Lyon

Featuring Bruce Lyon, Lyon Group

Agent and developer, Bruce Lyon is a very patient and visionary man. Establishing his first real estate office in Epping in Sydney’s Northwest in 1955, Bruce has been an industry stalwart for more than 62 years. He has become a driving force in the vibrant development of the northwest Sydney region with Epping becoming the largest transport hub in Northern Sydney.

Bruce says, “In Epping and Beecroft, we would have done probably 70% of the subdivisions there over a period of time.” Where others see barriers, Bruce, with his don’t back down attitude, has created opportunities. He says, “We actually formed a property owners' group for the Epping CBD. And we pushed to increase the height, which was limited to five floors, we pushed and we finished getting up 22 floors - but on specific sites. There is the opportunity to achieve change provided you’re going to give benefits to the community.”

"With every development you look at, it's a different challenge."

Over the last 40 years, Bruce has quietly gathered together properties in key sites in Epping to realise an incredibly ambitious dream. He says, “It's a special site and we are prepared to build a piazza bridge across Beecroft Road straight into the railway station so that it links both the eastern side to the western side and when you walk through there you would not know that you’re actually changing. It's not just a bridge - it's a full piazza."

It’s a grand vision, which includes demolishing the iconic Epping Hotel and building two soaring skyscrapers. Bruce sees vertical densification in a transport hub as a great lifestyle choice. He says, “It leaves more open land on the ground. If you build low rise - to make it work, you have to have them almost abutting each other so you end up with huge over-shadowing problems and it's either go up or go out. Now, if you go up, you recover 40% of the land so, 60% remains open to the public. It will grow here. I think it's a very good thing because people, instead of taking an hour to get to work, they'll be to work in 20 minutes.”

Bruce says, with developing, the key is to follow transport developments and learn how to appeal and appease branches of government and planning authorities. He explains, “You just have to follow the transport trend, what's going to happen. I think we kept our eyes firmly on that and where the growth was, what the population predictions could be and that must create opportunities. We didn't necessarily believe it was going to take 40 years. Both the government and the council were very slow to move on Epping. Parramatta council has been concentrating on Parramatta itself and they are doing a very good job over there. But we believe that the northern part of the shire, that's Epping, Carlingford - those areas, they are catering for a different mix in socioeconomic sets.”

Another important component to success in developing is community understanding and providing for their future needs. Bruce says, “What I've always done is, I've gone and looked at the site, I've assessed myself what I would do with it. You’ve got to have a certain distance. Some people might say, ‘Look, we'll build this and then see how that goes’, right? I think you've got to build to a master plan and ensure that the people that you are bringing in are going to have all the services. Got to have transport, good electricity supplies - and that's under threat at the present time. There would be no use in us going out and buying something unless we have an idea and a vision as to what we believe should be done with the site.”

Experience has made Bruce think in blocks of ten years. He says, “We'd like it to be two years but we know from experience it will take us longer. I think for the government, it is something that they have to really consider and really give a lot of thought to - putting timeframes on the processes. The only thing I fear is delays by council or the government departments. With councils, I like to see that the councillors truly represent the people and the community. If staff are delegated all of the powers, you don't have a really good opportunity to get a decision.”

The last factor in Bruce’s success has been his ability to collaborate and partner with people such as Mike Milliken, a fellow director of Lyon Group. He says, “You have your differences of opinions on things but we generally aim for one thing and that is to try and pick it right, pick the market out right, to have a vision of what you can do with it, give it good thought and then start discussing that vision with the councils. That's probably my role. Mike's role is putting the very big and urgently needed detail of each project to the consultants that we use, getting their support and making the world start turning.”

Development has certainly made Bruce’s life interesting. He says, “With every development you look at, it’s a different challenge. You lay awake at night, you think of it through the day. Unless you have a passion for it, you'll only be part-time.”

Bruce thrives on the challenges however. He says, “Challenges come but you make them yourself and I would prefer to have an interest. I like to enjoy it. There are new ideas that are available now. If people could realise we're only 50% of the way there to developing Sydney – that it is all going to happen again. That will happen during the next ten years. And it'll make us continue as a major state of this country - provided council and the government take the opportunities that are there and don't put road blocks in the way."

As Bruce says, “It's not right to back down.”



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