Apartment action man Ilya Melnikoff puts Hollywood hopes on hold

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Ilya Melnikoff on site at Eight Eight, in Sydney’s Anzac Parade, Kensington. Picture: Hollie Adams

 

“Harry said ‘What the hell are you doing here, there are opportunities in Australia. Stop fooling around and come back’.”

Ilya Melnikoff had settled into Los Angeles with a burgeoning Hollywood acting career under way when his great uncle, billionaire apartment builder Harry Triguboff, visited.

Not many say no to Triguboff, the founder of Meriton apartments, and Russian-born Melnikoff eventually moved back to Sydney.

“I have been around Harry most of my life. I started working for him in property management and then land acquisitions,” Melnikoff says. “I think I learned from his instincts.

“His secret is his intuition and ability to foresee the market and the trends.”

Melnikoff returned to Australia, and later bought his first site in Sydney’s Neutral Bay for a 16-unit project. It was 2008.

“It was unfortunate timing with the GFC, but we did well out of it,” he says.

“At the end of the GFC I bought on the Pacific Highway at North Sydney, for 48 apartments,” he says. “I bought the site when no one else wanted it.”

The $40 million project, The London, was the second for the 40-year-old Melnikoff’s Luxcon Group, which is now planning its fourth Sydney apartment development.

Despite having lived in Australia for 25 years, Melnikoff says his attitudes stem from his heritage.

His great uncle sponsored the family move from Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, to Sydney when Melnikoff was 13. “I think my methods are still built on the Russian culture and I still speak Russian at home,” he says.

With interests in design and architecture — Melnikoff is a fan of Philippe Starck and Robert Stern — as well as the arts, he moved to Los Angeles to act.

“It was nothing like the A list,” he says, having played a Russian drug dealer in the 2000 film Bedazzled with Elizabeth Hurley and Brendan Fraser.

He also featured in other Hollywood movies, including Stealth in 2005.

“I miss LA sometimes. Sometimes an agent calls and I go to an audition,” says Melnikoff, who has been working on a script that he hopes to take through to production one day.

While he was in Hollywood, Harry Triguboff visited. Sydney’s apartment tsar was looking at apartment construction in Los Angeles, and caught up with his great nephew.

“About a year later, I had the opportunity to buy a site (in Sydney). That fell through and then Neutral Bay came along,” says Melnikoff.

Luxcon’s latest project in Sydney is Eight Eight, where 90 per cent, or $100m worth of apartments, have sold in the 124-unit development on Anzac Parade in Kensington.

His next project is Jardine, a $60m, 56-unit development, at Epping in Sydney’s northwest where about half of the units have been pre-sold.

Like Triguboff, Melnikoff is confident of Sydney’s prospects despite the wave of apartment development. “It’s like New York, it’s a major city. Though with the site prices, the margin for error is very low,” he says.

He thinks there will be better opportunities to buy sites this year, and is looking at near city properties and parcels in the southeast.

For some time Melnikoff has eyed the Sydney Fish Market site at inner-city Pyrmont, and mentioned it to Triguboff. The site will come up for tender as part of ­UrbanGrowth’s $20 billion Bays Precinct regeneration. “I would like to buy it,” says Melnikoff.

“But I’m not in that league.”