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Chris Mather is unusual in that he started his career in property at the very top of the industry.
“From the age of about 15 I worked in my dad’s high-rise window-cleaning business,’’ says Chris, who is now 23.
“He has clients in the Sydney CBD and across the state and I helped out through my high school and university years, so my first real introduction to commercial property was from the outside looking in.
“Luckily I don’t have a fear of heights - the highest building I went over the edge of was 44 storeys—but I must admit it’s much nicer working on the other side of the window these days.’’
As a recent graduate of Western Sydney University (WSU), Chris is delighted to now find himself back there in a different role—as our property manager responsible for the university's state-of-the-art new 14-storey One Parramatta Square (1PSQ) campus. The $220 million, A-grade building was developed by us and is owned by two of our funds.
“I studied at WSU while I was on the Charter Hall scholarship internship program,’’ says Chris, “but unfortunately 1PSQ was still under construction then so I just missed out on using it as a student by a single semester.”
“I did get to visit it on a site tour as a student, and it was really impressive. It never occurred to me then that I would be managing it one day.’’
While studying, Chris worked in our Sydney offices three days a week and rotated through roles with teams including office, retail, industrial, capital transactions, planning and investing. This gave him a great overview of the whole business, and he says the realisation of just how many lives we touch was a real eye-opener.
“We manage over 800 properties across every state and territory. Every day over 330,000 people visit our retail facilities, and we have almost a million square metres of office space,’’ says Chris.
“It’s amazing just how many different things Charter Hall does, and how many ways it impacts on the lives of millions of people and on businesses and communities across the country, without them realising it.’’
1PSQ is a particularly exciting project to work on.
“The students and the academic staff love the place,’’ says Chris. “It’s the most technologically advanced campus in Australia, and it breaks new ground by doing away with traditional lecture theatres in favour of interactive learning.’’
It is also another example of how we serve so many Australians every day, as you don’t have to be part of the uni to enjoy the building’s facilities.
“Any member of the public can walk into the building and use the study booths and other public spaces,’’ says Chris. “I see a lot of students from the local primary schools and high schools coming to the uni to study because it’s open 24/7, with good security.
“You can see a similar thing at our No.1 Martin Place building, where we have our head offices. If you visit you’ll see there’s a whole bustling community, with a not-for-profit cafe on the mezzanine level, and spaces where people can unwind and meet up, maybe catch an art exhibition at the gallery.’’
Having worked across the business, Chris knows our role within the community goes beyond providing buildings.
“We also manage the savings of millions of people who invest in our projects via their super funds, or through thousands of smaller direct investments by individuals - you don't have to be a big investor to participate in our funds.’’
And he points out that we also help to care for the children of thousands of Aussie families.
“A lot of people wouldn’t realise that we also own one of the largest day care centre portfolios in Australia through our Folkestone education fund.’’
1PSQ sits within the massive Parramatta Square urban renewal project, which is still some years from completion, and for Chris managing a fully occupied building while construction proceeds nearby is not without its challenges.
“As you would expect it can get a bit fraught with concrete being poured next door, and issues such as blocked driveways - let’s just say that recently it’s been a case of relationship management at its maximum,’’ says Chris with a smile.
But this is what he trained for, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“For the moment I hope to stay on at 1PSQ and see this project through,’’ he says. “Down the track I plan to stay with the office side of the business and move into asset management.
“There’s always something exciting going on in office, whether its new developments like 1PSQ or divestments. There’s never a dull moment.’’