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The producers of hit television show The Block have invested in Melbourne for the second time in two months, this time snapping up a glass 1980s office building near trendy Chapel Street in Prahran.

The Block eyes new approach in Prahran

The producers of hit television show The Block have invested in Melbourne for the second time in two months, this time snapping up a glass 1980s office building near trendy Chapel Street in Prahran.

In a break from the traditional formula of renovating residences, it is anticipated contestants in the Prahran series will create high-end commercial shops and possibly offices, which would be sold after being strata-titled.

Sources say Watercress Productions is paying close to the $8.25 million asking price for the property at 121-127 High Street, opposite Swinburne University's Prahran campus.

The three-storey 3540-square-metre building sits on a 1289-square-metre block with open-air car parking and was offered with vacant possession.

It includes valuable ground-floor office space, expected to be refitted as retail. Nearby Chapel Street commands the highest retail rents in metropolitan Melbourne.

Upper levels of the building are expected to be refitted as flats or, possibly, townhouse-style multi-storey homes. Some office space has been mooted as another possibility.

Given permitted projects in the area, there is scope for Watercress to extend up as it did in former series based at South Melbourne and Richmond.

A Channel Nine publicist, speaking for Watercress, declined to comment.

The building was listed for sale in August - the same month it was revealed that Watercress paid $5.9 million for the historic Dux House warehouse at 47 O'Grady Street in Albert Park, sold by interests associated with billionaire businessman Lloyd Williams.

A dispute regarding the Albert Park redevelopment threatens to delay that series, sources say, despite contestants being drafted several months ago. These contestants may now be moved to the Prahran project.

Towers for Southbank

Planning Minister Matthew Guy has been asked to approve two more large residential projects, this time in Southbank.

The application seeks to replace neighbouring sites between 228 and 238 Normanby Road with apartment towers - rising 39 and 49 levels.

The towers will offer a total of 525 apartments but include just 243 car park spaces - consistent with the negative ratio of apartments versus car parks on many applications recently approved by Mr Guy.

The development will add more than 56,000 square metres of building area to Southbank.

Showroom snapped up

A Chinese developer has been revealed as the buyer of a Richmond showroom that sold for the asking price of $8 million last week, four days after it was listed for sale.

The 587-593 Church Street property returns annual rent of more than $300,000 and sold on a low yield of 3.3 per cent. The sale reflects a land value of $4695 per square metre, according to Savills selling agents Nick Peden, Julian Heatherich and Clinton Baxter.

A number of overseas buyers competed for the site, according to the agents. The 1704-square-metre Richmond block is expected to make way for an apartment building in the medium term.

Deals in Hawthorn East

In separate deals, one concluded in less than 24 hours, owner-occupiers have purchased office-warehouses in the light industrial precinct of Hawthorn East.

The largest property, at 26-28 Hall Street, sold for $3.1 million or a rate of $2500 per square metre. On a block with redevelopment potential, the 1220-square-metre building is split evenly as office and industrial, and sold off-market

A nearby office-warehouse at 7 Cato Street sold for $2.5 million or $2370 per square metre. This building is on a 1095-square-metre block.

GormanKelly's David Minton was the selling agent.

The Hawthorn East estate, which is slowly being reinvented with premium office stock, is near the Toorak Road exit of the Monash Freeway, about 7.5 kilometres from the city, near some of Melbourne's ritziest suburbs.

Storage in Cheltenham

The owner and operator of south-east Asia's largest car parking operation, Wilson Group, has taken a 10-year lease in the bayside suburb of Cheltenham to develop a specialist self-storage centre at 237-239 Bay Road.

Wilson Group has recently diversified into the self-storage business. In Melbourne, the company is also in the process of buying a Guardian Storage facility at 318 Reserve Road, also in Cheltenham.

The Bay Road site will include specialty units such as cool rooms to allow for products such as wine storage. It's expected to be open to the public early next year, according to Nichols Crowder agent James Glen, who negotiated the lease.

Cardinia generosity

The Cardinia Shire Council is helping beleaguered state government agency Places Victoria by paying a generous sum to buy an as yet unfinished office in Melbourne's outer south-east.

Sources say the council is paying about $28 million for a four-level, 5066-square-metre office on a prime block within the Officer Town Centre, about 50 kilometres from town.

The property was one of several that Places Victoria listed for sale in April. During the planning process, the building was valued at $22 million. When it was listed for sale with agency CBRE it was expected to sell for up to $25 million.

A council representative did not acknowledge numerous requests regarding the purchase. The council had previously agreed to lease the office, due for completion next March, paying a starting annual rent of $2 million.

Places Victoria has suffered a hit to its balance sheet after properties acquired in previous booms were devalued following recent economic downturns.

Pentridge networking

A historic building within the former Pentridge Prison complex in Coburg has been relaunched as a conference venue.

The former D Division building can accommodate 350 people, and a larger number with a permit for a marquee.

Entertainment group Building Brands this week applied for a liquor licence to serve alcohol at the venue.

Pentridge closed in 1997 and has been sliced into sections and sold to various apartment developers, some of whom went bust following the 2008 economic downturn.

Last July the state government announced it would build a secondary school in Coburg to cope with the soaring number of new residents, many of whom are moving to the former jail site

Coincidentally, the site of the suburb's former high school, in Bell Street, sold earlier this year to an overseas developer.

A recent planning application sought to replace the school with a dense complex filled mostly with studio and one-bedroom apartments.

Twitter: @marcpallisco

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