Meet the Locals: Mac Stirling
Mac Stirling, of Lauder Pty Ltd, is perhaps best known for putting Highfields on the map with multiple residential and commercial development projects.
However, there’s more to this property magnate than meets the eye. We sat down with Mac for an intriguing Q&A.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your history with Toowoomba and Highfields.
Our family has been involved with Toowoomba and the Darling Downs since the late 1800s, mostly in farming. I attended Toowoomba Prep and later Toowoomba Grammar School. I studied Architecture at the University of Queensland while representing Australia in gymnastics at World Championship level.
I then developed a sports architecture side of the architectural practice, PDT Architects. My last major project was the redevelopment of Suncorp Stadium (Lang Park) in 2003, in collaboration with HOK Sport Architects.
How did you predict the Highfields residential boom in the mid-to-late 1990s, and what type of projects have you been involved in over the years there?
My father, the late John Stirling, was able to purchase 28 hectares of land in 1997, including the designated future Highfields Town Centre, from the Royal Flying Doctor Service. It was a pleasure to work with the then-Crows Nest Shire Council to develop a shared vision for the Town Centre and surrounding residential land (Highfields Village Estate – 250 lots). These were the first ‘small lots’ – 1,000m2 on average – and the first sewered lots in the Highfields area.
The residential land sold like hotcakes, and halfway through the development of the residential estate, we realised the need for a full-line shopping centre. We opened the first stage of the Highfields Village Shopping Centre in late 2003 with an Action Supermarket and 15 specialty shops. The supermarket later became a Woolworths and we progressively expanded the centre over a 15-year period.
In 2017, we sold the Highfields Village Shopping Centre to Charter Hall Retail Fund. We could also see the need for additional, quality, master-planned residential development, and in 2014 we bought – as a joint venture – 48 hectares of land which is now The Avenues of Highfields.
What are some of the challenges of property development that the average person might not expect?
Property development is not for the faint-hearted investor. There are many traps for beginners and capital is required to bring any project to a point where the banks are prepared to provide funds as a return on investment. Plus, careful dialogue and education are also necessary to assure a favourable community outcome.
The intent of any master-planned residential development should be, of course, to build a real community. Highfields has the majority of these community jigsaw pieces in place and Toowoomba Regional Council has also realised the huge potential of Highfields and worked closely with various developers towards providing a quality community outcome.
What are some of the biggest highlights from your career so far?
Being able to work with a very clever and talented team of professionals to ensure that our family property development company, Lauder Pty Ltd, continues to prosper and that we can be proud of the built environment and community outcomes we have helped to deliver at Highfields.
What are some of the most exciting projects happening at the moment?
We are very committed to the successful rollout of The Avenues of Highfields over the next few years, and we are also looking at a couple of other property-development options in the Highfields/Toowoomba area.
What are your plans for the future?
Personally, to ride my mountain bike some more and to do more gardening! From a business perspective, we hope to be able to consider future quality residential and commercial developments in the Highfields/Toowoomba region.
What do you see for the future of Highfields?
Highfields is a prospering, real community in its own right. While being an integral part of the greater Toowoomba Regional Council area, Highfields also has its own identity.
I think Highfields is now the premium community of choice for Toowoomba residents. It is fast becoming the preferred residential area for young families and also for seniors. This is for many reasons. There’s the ADF base in Borneo Barracks, Toowoomba Regional Council has also invested in community fabric infrastructure such as the first-class Highfields Sports Park, and state and private schools have provided quality educational infrastructure.
What do you love most about Toowoomba and Highfields?
The people, the beautiful parks, the gardens and the huge potential of the region for quality urban renewal and development. I think Toowoomba is and will continue to develop as the best regional city in Australia.
Contact the experts today to find out how we can help you buy, sell or manage your investment property in Toowoomba.
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