Quiet achiever – Developer-builder Chris Pothan carves out a new community – Pictured in the foreground with lead excavator operator Anthony Field at Wellington Estate Yass
Local developer and home builder Mr Chris Pothan is creating new communities of compact, affordable housing and family-friendly larger lots in Yass and the market can’t get enough of his style of development. His latest project Wellington Estate is the most significant release he has attempted and the largest in Yass currently up for sale.
Mr Pothan’s success has not come overnight; building several companies during his working life, starting in concreting, then civil works, eventually evolving into developments; known in the industry as CVC Civil and Nahtop Developments (Pothan backwards).
For the past nine years, many families in Yass Valley have known him as “Sensei Chris,” the blackbelt leader of the local GKR karate franchise. Chris dedicated countless hours above and beyond the role, to help both children and adult students in and out of the dojo (practice room) to achieve their best or face life’s hurdles. Mr Pothan retired from the role just last month to focus on family and his expanding business.
Mr Pothan was also the concreting and construction muscle behind the renaissance of an art-deco building in Yass. Mr Pothan’s wife, Cayla Pothan, a mosaic artist, transformed the old service centre into the iconic café-gallery Tootsie, which is where you can often find Chris, working away on a laptop.
It is this background knowledge of Chris Pothan, which will give immediate surprise to readers of the revelation he loathes the limelight and prefers not to deal with people.
“I do like to fly under the radar, preferring to build things than put myself out there. I figure if I build things properly, I don’t have to deal with people coming back wanting changes. I’m not sure if that’s a good motto, but it means people get quality” he confessed with a laugh.
Standing on the freshly constructed asphalt road inside Wellington Estate, just off Grand Junction Road, the attention to solid construction is evident. As a father of three himself; the development boasts one of Pothan’s signature features; wide concrete pathways perfect for families with prams, kids on scooters and dogs on leads to pass each other easily.
The streetlights are up, stormwater drains are in place, and the grass is sprouting. The stage is set, ready for families to build and make their hometown Yass, with blocks starting at $230,000 for 700 square metres up to 1627 square metres, sold through Yass Valley property.
“For a straightforward, small design house, it will cost you a little bit more than the block price to build so just over 500 (thousand) for a new home, which ten years ago would have sounded crazy, but it’s sort of where it is now,” Mr Pothan summed up the market position.
Wellington estate is 32 minutes to the ACT/NSW border and Canberrans are likely to see the attraction. At $1000 a square metre for new land release in the ACT, Yass Valley practically offers an opportunity to buy land and build a home for a little more than just the price of property across the border.
“If you were to draw a circle around Canberra, what Yass Valley has got going here, as far as I know, is the cheapest land available,” Mr Pothan stated.
Six out of the 46 lots at Wellington Estate were snapped up on release however Chris noted a change in the market forces and quickly responded to allow local buyers to take advantage.
The federal government’s introduction of the $25,000 ‘home builders & renovators’ grant has given house & land packages the edge for homes under $750,000 until December 2020. Mr Pothan is adjusting to now offer house packages as well.
Mr Pothan expects COVID restrictions for office workers are also in Yass Valley’s favour, given its proximity to Canberra.
“People working from home will likely create demand, so we’re responding to that along with the federal government stimulus grants because of COVID. We’ll be offering three bedrooms with a nice office and NBN.”
Once outdoors at his development site, Chris Pothan’s passion for building communities could not be repressed.
“I have always loved this. Originally, I was a concreter and built a big concreting company in Canberra
which evolved into excavation and earthworks which evolved into civil works which evolved into developing.
I really enjoy it!”
The joy of carving out communities started early in life.
“I was the kid in the sandpit. Looking at the excavator there, you know when you get to the sandpit and the digger with the two levers? I used to have one of those at home, and I would practice on it when I was a little kid. So now I get to drive the real thing,” beamed Chris.
PHOTO CAPTION: Chris Pothan onsite at Wellington Estate with Anthony Field – Lead Excavator Operator.
CVC Civil is the Pothan family’s development company, and Nahtop Developments is their building company.
Wellington Estate is not Chris Pothan’s first rodeo, but it is the most significant development he’s ever created.
“It’s worked in increments, from shovel and trench to concreting then civil works, they’ve complemented each other. We were doing civil works for other companies in Canberra, so we decided we may as well do it for ourselves. I thought Yass would be a good market. The land already had a DA and construction certificate, so was already approved for development.”
Under the final stage of construction, his Morton Avenue, twenty home community title development is possibly the most popular and affordable house & land package release in Yass for the past five years.
“We took the final six to market, and they were gone within two weeks, and people missed out,” Mr Pothan revealed.
“Everything for affordable housing needs to start at the very beginning; the land needs to be a reasonable price, zoned right or you can do it community title. That’s how the zoning works in Yass at the moment, to reduce the lot size, that’s the trick to it. People still own their houses and land, but there is a shared common driveway, and that’s where the title stands,” Mr Pothan explained.
Used to the Act market, Mr Pothan was surprised to find the land gem within the township.
“The Morton Avenue land had a DA (development application) ready to go, but it sat there for years and years, and no one was picking them up. So, being in Canberra where it’s cutthroat I decided to buy here, and it has worked.”
The success of Morton Avenue was meeting the market for low-income earners, first home buyers and downsizers wanting to free up their cash.
It was just affordable; they’re tidy blocks, low maintenance, landscaped, good solid slab, nice yards and concrete retaining walls, colourbond fences so basically very maintenance free and turn-key.”
Blocks were carved out into parcels of 400 – 560 square metres and sold under community title.
“We levelled the blocks, so there is no wasted yard. Even though they are small blocks, they look a lot bigger. Everyone owns their own home and land; it’s just the driveway which is community title.”
Mr Pothan declared any opportunity to build more would be welcome.
“I wish I could find another twenty of those development opportunities in town cause they are so popular, but there’s no more available land to be able to do that in town unless you’re going to tear down old houses which makes it less economical.
“Changing the zoning can take years, so if you follow the rules council has in place and tick all their boxes, it’s going to be the least painful way to develop.”
Chris also has ideas for other developments in Yass but for now, is focussed on completing construction on the final six homes in Morton Avenue and welcoming new families to Wellington Estate.
PHOTO Morton Avenue – proud homeowner Christine Wilson and builder-developer Chris Pothan within the twenty-home complex. The final stage recently sold off the plan in under two weeks.
Christine Wilson was outside enjoying some sunshine and pottering in her front garden when Yass Valley Times stopped by and questioned her about her new home.
“I’ve been in this home for a little bit over 12 months. They are great little units, three bedrooms, one bathroom. It’s a great place to live, quiet and neighbours are wonderful. I have room for my animals, a dog and some fur critters inside.”
Christine said it was the price and the low maintenance living, which attracted her interest.
“It was in my budget, and they were brand new. I came from a house which first changed hands in the 1890s in Lead street, so I lived in that for forty-odd years. It’s been so wonderful having something new because as much as I loved it and my garden was huge there, I needed to downsize.”
Christine, who works as a nurse, says everyone looks out for each other.
“There’s definitely a community here, the neighbours are great. There’s a mix of ages here from ’20-’30s to ’60s. Most own their homes, and a few do rent. I’ve struck up a great friendship with the people across the way. A few I hardly see because they’re always at work. The area is so quiet.”
Christine Wilson bought her home just 12 months ago for $389,000. One year later, the entry price for the final release of six homes of similar design had jumped to $439,000, and not all the demand was met.