Ocean Road Magazine: New Generation builds on Nikiforides Family’s Living Legacy
The Oracle towers stand tall in the heart of Broadbeach as a living legacy of visionary Gold Coast developer Con Nikiforides.
Like his father Bill before him, through family-owned company Niecon Developments, Con reshaped the city’s skyline with The Oracle more than a decade ago and set in train a transformation for Broadbeach that continues today.
A modest spiral sculpture located on the corner of Charles Avenue and The Oracle Boulevard on the north-western boundary of the development pays humble tribute to the family and the developer who was as fascinated by architectural design and inspired by fluid art forms as much as he was about creating living, breathing developments that engage the community.
Although the significance of the artwork is often missed by the thousands of people that walk past every day, it remains a constant reminder for Con’s three sons – William, John and James – of their father, who passed away in 2017, and their grandfather before him in 2005.
The loss of their father and mentor at the age of 56 years is still felt by the Nikiforides brothers who variously describe him as ‘creative’, ‘visionary’ and ‘kind’. “We miss him every day,” says William, the managing director of Niecon Developments.
The company, founded by Bill Nikiforides in 1969, is one of the Gold Coast’s most enduring development brands with a family-led ethos that continues to inspire the Nikiforides brothers – the new generation of the family now leading the company forward. It is the company where the brothers gained invaluable first-hand experience of the industry, sitting in meetings with their father who encouraged them to listen and learn. Bill and Con were both mentors who inspired in them a passion for property. Their father, Con, with a special talent as a trained gemologist, in many ways skewed his developer’s eye towards aesthetics.
William, the oldest of the brothers, first worked with his father at Niecon Developments in 2007 at the age of 21. James later joined in sales and marketing, working with the team as The Oracle was taking shape.
“In those years we never really took a hands-on role operating the business, but because Niecon is a family company at its heart, we were always involved in some way,” says William. “Those early years were the learning years where we gained a firm grounding in the industry.”
Although the brothers bring to the business a diverse skillset, their shared passion for property was never in doubt. It hasn’t faded after three generations and is even stronger now with the brothers’ abiding love of their hometown, the Gold Coast, and a commitment to the city’s prosperity.
Bill Nikiforides founded the Nikiforides Group in Canberra in 1969 before expanding to Sydney and later along Australia’s eastern seaboard. The family-owned company moved to the Gold Coast in 1978 and quickly established a reputation for quality and innovation across its developments in Queensland’s south-east.
“Our grandfather loved thinking in numbers, but he was also a larger-than-life personality – a real people person,” says John.
Bill, like his son, was widely respected in the industry and the brothers are reminded of that often when dealing with architects, suppliers and trades who at times reflect on their experiences with the Gold Coast development icons.
“Bill and Dad had a similar view of life,” says John. “They were never in a hurry when talking to somebody. They always wanted to learn about them and hear their life story. They were always very interested in people and what made them tick.”
It’s this predisposition to people, their families and their lives that was the foundation of Niecon Developments’ philosophy to ‘create life spaces that bring a community together’.
“We always approach each project by looking at how it connects with the way people live,” says William. “It’s those finer touches, that attention to detail that many others might overlook that we believe sets us apart.”
“We admire excellence in design and projects that inspire us as a community,” says John. “We look at what other developers are doing in the city and appreciate projects that benefit the broader community and believe we can contribute to this in our own way. The way we differentiate ourselves is through our connection with buyers, by communicating with them along the way so they know what we are doing for them. Our buyers are as important to the building process as we are, if not more so, and we instill this philosophy across our team.”
Among the many enduring developments undertaken by Niecon Developments is the Aqua tower at Labrador. Since its completion in 2004, this mixed-use luxury apartment project brought a vibrancy to the Broadwater foreshore that continues to this day, becoming a popular dining hub and meeting place for locals. Recent developments include the twin-tower Reflection and Nirvana by the Sea at Kirra, both of which have led the way for a renaissance of the city’s southern beachfront.
Niecon Developments currently has a project pipeline of more than $300 million planned for the Gold Coast. The company’s latest is Ventura Residences at Mermaid Beach, a boutique development of 47 luxury residences, including two park-facing villas. Ventura Residences is already selling well, largely to owner-occupiers who the company says are driving the strong demand for apartment living on the Gold Coast.
Ventura unashamedly targets the premium end of the market which John says is where the buyers are most active in the current cycle.
“We’re seeing a lot of local downsizers and the baby boomer generation seeking generous living spaces where they can still have their grandkids visit without being crowded out,” says John. “For local buyers who are looking to scale down from a house to an apartment without compromising the Gold Coast lifestyle they love, this is a compelling story.”
Interstate demand, driven by a ‘light bulb moment’ for southern buyers, is now taking demand to a new level.
“We’re fortunate to be marketing beautiful residences in easily one of the best places in the world to live,” says John. “We’ve been saying that for 30 years, and for much of that time we have been trying to convince Melbourne and Sydney how good it is here. Now, they are the ones telling us how good it is. They have discovered just how much the Coast has to offer and I think we’re very fortunate to still be in business on the Gold Coast in a way that really continues to progress the city.”
“I think there is a legitimacy to the city now that may have been missing in the past,” says James. “People are settling here to prove their success as well as make their success. The Gold Coast is now an extremely desirable address and that will never change.”
The ability to work remotely has added momentum, with Niecon Developments finding buyers are increasingly opting for a move to the Gold Coast even though their head office remains in Sydney or Melbourne.
“The work-from-home trend has benefitted the Gold Coast tremendously,” says William. “Many of our buyers might be working remotely for now, but some of them also are testing the waters for when they retire in a few years. It’s a combination of these influences that we see supporting the Gold Coast property market for some time to come.”
“Compared to what we have seen in the past, we’re finding a fundamental underlying strength in the Gold Coast market,” says John. “It may slow down, but that’s actually a positive because it will bring the market back into balance – not too hot or too cold.”
Despite a healthy project pipeline under way, William says Niecon Developments is taking a measured approach to the market. The company is sticking to its formula of prime locations close to amenities and to remaining within the ‘sweet spot’ of development by delivering mid-sized projects.
“We don’t always have to build close to the beach, because the Gold Coast is so much more than that,” says William. “Anywhere close to amenity is where people want to be and our new project at Biggera Waters is a good example of this. People want to be able to walk to restaurants, cafes, shopping or to enjoy the healthy environment the Gold Coast has to offer.”
William, as managing director, is the strategist applying his capacity for problem solving and an innovative approach to project development to his role. John, as general manager, draws on his background in property law to oversee the company’s finance, legal and office operations.
James, the sales and marketing director, is acknowledged by his brothers as the most creative of the three. James has long held an active interest in music, playing in a blues rock and roll band, The Vernons, which boasts Gold Coast lawyer John Nyst on lead vocals and lead guitar.
“We work well together and have done since we were young,” says John. “We’re very close in age – the three of us under three by a month when James was born. We have always been raised to work together, protect each other and love each other. But there’s a great deal of discipline in everything we do.
“We’d be lying if we didn’t say part of what we are doing now is for dad and for our grandfather. We were very fortunate to have them set the platform for us.”
John says he always admired his father’s vision and creativity.
“I see that a lot of that in James every time we look at a development and even with Will who has a great vision for where the company is headed. For me, this journey is about improving and contributing to society in a positive way. I know developers get sometimes a rough time over the fact that we are taking away what was once there, but to be able to put something beautiful in its place that is of benefit to everyone around in the community is really powerful.”
As for the brothers taking up the reins of the company their father once led, John says it could never have been any other way.
“Dad was really proud that we had so much passion for everything we did and that’s all he ever really wanted for the three of us – to do something that we loved.”