On the coast of Western Australia, the city of Busselton awaits the arrival of a 3,000-ton whale made of concrete and steel, breaching from the depths of the Indian Ocean.
The leviathan is part of a marine observation center, the Australian Underwater Discovery Centre, a project that cost 30 million Australian dollars, about $23 million, and was designed by Baca Architects and Subcon, a marine contractor. Situated at the end of the Busselton Jetty, a city attraction, it will be Australia’s largest natural marine observatory when it opens in December 2022.
The multilevel structure, which will offer art and science exhibits while allowing visitors to marvel at life beneath the surface of the ocean, is the latest example of a new rush of developments steadily cropping up around Australia’s coastline to entertain locals and draw international visitors.
80 percent of the country’s population resides in coastal zones. But population growth has led to an uptick in coastal projects, and experts say the pandemic is only accelerating the trend.
After years of lagging, commercial development is picking up, said Mark Coster, head of capital markets for the Pacific at CBRE, a commercial real estate analysis firm.
“Over the last few years, there’s been significant infrastructure spend along the coasts, and that’s been spurred by population growth and a lack of spending for much of the last decade,” he said.
That is certainly the case in Busselton — a city of 40,000 about two and a half hours south of Perth. It has steadily grown and is expected to be one of the country’s hottest property markets. Development has followed suit: The marine center, an airport expansion, arts center, open-air market, a Hilton Hotel and a shoreline project are all under construction.
lockdowns, Australia has managed the pandemic well, with lower Covid-19 infection and death rates than many comparable developing countries, according to a report released in December by McKinsey & Company. “Its economic downturn during the pandemic has also been less pronounced than in many comparable economies,” the report said.
But that hasn’t stopped migration shifts, especially the growing attraction of leaving major cities for coastal enclaves. On the East Coast, both Sydney and Melbourne registered population losses last year as people flocked to coastal and regional towns, seeking solace and space.
“Covid has fast-forwarded Australians’ desire to be closer to the water and the result is that smaller but high-amenity towns are booming,” Mr. Coster said.