Tout Swede: H&M has designs on GPO site

Tout Swede: H&M has designs on GPO site

Swedish clothing chain H&M is the mystery tenant formalising plans to occupy the bulk of the GPO building, which is to be vacated by dozens of tenants over the next six months.

It is understood that the group will commit to the ground and second level of the historic building at the corner of Elizabeth Street and the Bourke Street Mall - but that a formal agreement is not ready to be announced. If all goes to plan, H&M might trade at the GPO by Christmas, according to sources.

The global retailer is expected to open onto the GPO steps, perhaps Melbourne's best known meeting place. It is speculated H&M will occupy what is at present 19 shops totalling 1600 square metres.

Since mid-2012, H&M has been linked to just two Melbourne sites, including the Emporium building, which is under construction in the less-prime Lonsdale Street. Another store at the Chadstone Shopping Centre is expected to be announced soon. A representative from owner ISPT was unavailable to comment.

Max Cookes, a city leasing agent with CBRE, said demand by international tenants for Melbourne retail space had been rife this year. He said in the past fortnight three new global retailers had emerged seeking space in the CBD.

Port in a storm

Port Phillip Council may have created itself a new planning battleground this week - endorsing a "sensible" maximum height limit of 10-levels for what is considered Port Melbourne's best development site.

A 28-level proposal for the 1-7 Waterfront Place block made headlines in 2010 when it was reportedly approved by then planning minister Justin Madden, a month before the ALP was voted out.

Earlier this year, the owners asked the council to modify its planning scheme to allow for three buildings rising five, 10 and 19 storeys.

"The Port Melbourne waterfront is highly valued as one of Melbourne's most significant waterfront locations and a gateway to the city, and 1-7 Waterfront Place is under some pressure for redevelopment," a council spokeswoman said.

"We need to take a sensible approach to development in this area. This balances a number of competing objectives by responding to the built form in the area and protecting the foreshore from overshadowing."

Any higher-rise proposal is now expected to be decided by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal or Planning Minister Matthew Guy, who has made clear his intention to make Port Melbourne higher-density than was proposed by the former government.

Assets on the block

Troubled Places Victoria is readying to offload the first properties within its substantial, and some say over-valued, portfolio.

The biggest site, at 4 Hopkins Street in Footscray, is expected to fetch about $16 million, according to sources. PV, under its previous guise of VicUrban - agreed to pay $21 million for the LeMans site at the start of the property downturn in early 2011.

Unfortunately for PV, the neighbouring vacant block at 2 Hopkins Street has since been earmarked for redevelopment, with new buildings expected to block postcard CBD and Maribyrnong River views

from No.4.

An Officer site, believed to be an office leased to the Cardinia Shire Council, is also expected to be listed soon.

The government agency has been plagued by scandal in recent years, with focus on management behaviours, a lack of project delivery and a property portfolio that included several assets - like Footscray - that went backwards in value.

Fruitful deal

History has repeated for the last time in Blackburn North, with a residential developer swooping on the final piece of a former orchard owned by the same family since 1919.

The hectare block known as 59-67 Surrey Road is the balance of a nine-hectare estate bound by Junction and Surrey roads, Rialton Avenue and Koonung Creek (along where the Eastern Freeway is today). The orchard once abutted the property of Bob Slater, after which the local Slater Reserve is named.

The remainder of the Surrey Road orchard was developed in the 1950s.

Woodards Blackburn director Cameron Way represented the current generation of owners. The largely vacant block sold for $5.8 million and is expected to make way for a low-density townhouse project.

Mulgrave twin piques

A standalone Mulgrave office that was just four months ago subdivided from a twin neighbour building has sold for $7.7 million.

The three-level, 2956-square-metre office at 15 Compark Circuit includes 118 basement car parks. Based on the annual rent of $752,000, it sold on a yield of 9.8 per cent.

The near-new building carried significant depreciation benefits, according to Colliers International selling agent Peter Bremner, who marketed the site with Hamish Burgess and CBRE's Justin Clarkson and Scott Orchard. The agents are seeking about $7.5 million for the adjoining vacant office at 13 Compark Circuit.

About 21 kilometres south-east of town, and with the Monash and EastLink freeways slicing through it, Mulgrave has become home in recent years to major corporations like adidas, BMW, Bristol Myers Squibb, Carlisle Homes and Toyota. "Over the past 12 months, very few properties have been offered for sale in the outer east between $5 million and $10 million, which has caused pent-up demand," Mr Clarkson said.

Richmond looking up

The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal disagrees with Yarra City Council's vision to retain Richmond as "a low-rise urban town with pockets of higher redevelopment".

In what has been a busy calendar year for council planners, the tribunal this month approved a permit be issued for a nine-storey, 42-unit tower at 1-3 Railway Place, near Swan Street, and the controversial Dimmeys apartment proposal. VCAT rejected the council's various reasons for rejecting the proposal last August.

The council might be forced to defend its decision to VCAT again after rejecting a proposal last month for a 13-storey apartment complex for a nearby site at 63-65 Swan Street.

Brotherhood moves out

The Brotherhood of St Laurence is seeking about $1 million for what is being marketed as a Fitzroy development site.

The former kindergarten at 134 Napier Street, opposite the Atherton Gardens public housing compound, was used by BSL as a child and family resource centre, but is being offered with vacant possession.

The block spreads 425 square metres and is capable of accommodating a high-density apartment tower, should historic buildings on the site be razed. Childcare, community and medical uses have also been suggested.

James Gregson and David Bourke, of agency Fitzroys, are representing BSL, which bought the asset in 1985. In June, BSL will have been based in Fitzroy - and Victoria - for 80 years.

Geelong beckons

Two neighbouring offices in central Geelong are understood to be selling for about $22 million.

Sources say the modern 7651-square-metre facility at 100 Brougham Street, which is leased to the City of Greater Geelong and Centrelink, will trade on a yield of 9.2 per cent, based on the annual rent of $2.03 million.

Representatives from selling agency Dawkins Occhiuto, and administrator KordaMentha, were unavailable for comment.

Twitter: @marcpallisco

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