MUMBAI-based developer DEC Australia - formerly a sponsor of Victoria's Bushrangers cricket team - has stumbled at the crease, taking its $1 billion-plus Southbank plans off the development playing field for at least three years.
At a time when offshore developers are priming Melbourne's apartment market, seven DEC-owned buildings in a wedge of land bordered by City Road and Cecil and Whiteman streets are being offered to prospective tenants on three-to-five year leases.
The buildings were once the centrepiece of DEC's Melbourne plans when its parent, the joint India and Dubai-based Dheeraj and East Coast development company, bowled into Victoria in 2008 and began buying sites.
According to Forbes, DEC's owners, the Wadhawan family, are among India's richest, with an estimated fortune of about $875 million.
The family made headlines about four years ago when it snapped up sites in City Road, Beaconsfield Parade, Middle Park and Darling Street, South Yarra.
DEC was given special dispensation by former planning minister Justin Madden in 2010 to put four towers reaching 39-storeys, 1274 apartments, a 288-room hotel and substantial retail space on the Southbank site now covered by a mix of single-to-four-storey offices, warehouses and showrooms. DEC subsequently enlisted Victoria's cricket team to help promote its plans.
But in the intervening period the lack of development activity caused speculation that DEC was selling off portions of the site.
Last October, another DEC project, The Verge, was sold for $7.61 million to 608 Property Group with buyers already having paid deposits on units in the 270-apartment block.
Company spokesman Zach Han denied that any part of the Southbank site was for sale. "I am confidently able to say these properties are not for sale," he said.
The company had postponed the first stage of its tower development in the area, planned for the corner of Whiteman and Cecil streets, for another three years.
"We have everything ready, we're just waiting for the right market," Mr Han said.
The leasing deals are being handled by Lemon Baxter agent Paul O'Sullivan and Knight Frank's Ben Hackworthy.
They cover offices, warehouses, showrooms at 430 City Road, 400-406 City Road, 115 Whiteman Street and 10-24 Cecil Street.
"We've had considerable interest. They are unique buildings," Mr O'Sullivan said.