Freemasons Victoria is taking cues from another Melbourne society, the Celtic Club, to better profit from its blue-ribbon land holding.
The Freemasons, with joint venture partner Mirvac, has sought permission from Planning Minister Matthew Guy to replace its parkside Dallas Brooks Hall site in East Melbourne with two towers of 17 and 11 levels.
The estimated $400 million village replaces a relatively more modest $250 million proposal the consortium announced just nine months ago.
That smaller proposal would have included one residential tower of 10 levels and with 250 flats, rising from the north-west corner of the site, fronting Victoria Parade.
Instead, that portion of land will make way for the 17-level tower. The most exclusive front section on Albert Street, opposite Fitzroy Gardens and with CBD views, will make way for the 11-level building.
The new proposal will include a major office component as well as 275 residential units industry sources are speculating will be oversized and target the uber-wealthy.
According to its application, Freemasons Victoria will occupy just 1000 square metres of new function space in the centre. Its membership has in recent years collapsed from about 110,000 to 13,000.
Mirvac's chief executive of residential development, John Carfi, describes the block as iconic, adding "the site's location, views and attributes are outstanding".
He said the consortium would work with the minister, the Melbourne City Council and stakeholders to deliver a project that will "ensure no further overshadowing of Fitzroy Gardens".
On the eastern edge of the park at 150 Clarendon Street, East Melbourne, developer Salta in 2009 completed a 12-level, 88-unit building, considered Melbourne's most exclusive apartment block.
At 35 Spring Street, CBus Property is marketing a 45-level luxury apartment tower with 270 flats, the cheapest one-bedrooms starting at $480,000.
Late last year the Celtic Club sought and received permission from Mr Guy to redevelop its historic five-level Queen Street headquarters as a 48-level apartment building.
The Melbourne City Council had earlier suggested it would reject the club's smaller 43-level application. Last month developer Buildcorp agreed to pay the Celtic Club $12 million for the site with vacant possession.
$7.5m for prime site
Private investors have paid a speculated $7.5 million for a historic CBD building with development potential.
The triple-storey retail building at 137-141 Bourke Street, on the corner of Coromandel Place, is now expected to make way for a $100-million plus apartment tower with ground-floor shops.
Until recently, part of the 1200 square metre retail space was leased to restaurant Alexander's.
The 464-square-metre block sold with a permit for a 16-level, 88-unit apartment complex. Like many new owners of CBD sites, however, more units are expected to be fitted into the walls of the approved structure.
The site abuts near-new buildings, including the Citadines on Bourke hotel which rises 25 levels, and offices at 111 Bourke Street (22 levels) and 121 Exhibition Street (42 levels).
City-based development and delivery service provider Urban purchased the building for the new owner consortium and will manage its redevelopment. Director Bart O'Callaghan would not comment about the deal.
DTZ's Danny Clark was the building's marketing agent.
All but 10 per cent of a refurbished East Melbourne office, until recently the headquarters of Melbourne Water, has been re-committed.
The six-level building at 126 Wellington Parade, opposite Yarra Park and the MCG, can tout as new occupants the Fuel Agency, GFK Bluemoon and the Engine Property Group.
Real estate agency Woodards has also leased space in the building, part of an expansion plan. Just three months ago, company director John Piccolo paid $7 million for the former Victoria Teachers Mutual Bank building near the Camberwell Junction, which will also trade as a Woodards agency.
Rents in the East Melbourne office have circled on average about $400 per square metre, per annum. Car spaces are leased for about $260 per month.
Melbourne Water occupied levels two through six before moving to 990 La Trobe Street early last year. The private investor owner, Brendan Sullivan, subsequently refurbished the older building into warehouse-style offices and offered it for lease in portions.
Kliger Wood's Grant McKenzie and Jones Lang LaSalle's Michael Simonds have been responsible for marketing the office space since that time. Three small portions totalling 350 square metres remain in the 3500-square-metre building.
Campus growth plan
Prestigious private girls' college Genazzano FCJ is speculated to be buying a former Telstra exchange building that adjoins the western edge of its imposing Kew campus.
The 534-square-metre site near the north-east corner of Cotham and Normanby roads was one of the most valuable in a portfolio of nine suburban assets Telstra listed for sale in May. The portfolio reportedly netted the telco about $15 million. The Kew block is speculated to have sold for about $1.5 million.
GrayJohnson and Beller Commercial marketed the portfolio.
A school spokeswoman declined to comment about any deal.
Tattersall's HQ to go
City-based builder Bensons Property Group is still waiting to strike it rich at the busy south-east suburban corner that was for years the Tattersall's headquarters.
Bensons is seeking to replace a low-rise 2800-square-metre building on the corner of Dandenong and Tooronga roads in Malvern East with an 18-level apartment tower with 315 flats, 315 car parks and 10 home offices.
The intersection is the suburb border with Malvern and Caulfield North.
Bensons paid Tattersall's $11.65 million for 781-805 Dandenong Road in 2007, in a a major campaign managed by Colliers International.
Last year Bensons paid $834,000 for a neighbouring 388-square-metre block at 807 Dandenong Road after another public campaign managed by Vinci Carbone.
Bensons' application is now being considered by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal after being rejected by the City of Stonnington council.
The former Tattersall's site is almost opposite the Caulfield train station and the Caulfield Race Track, land around which is approved to become a $1 billion mixed-use village, which will include 1200 flats in 20-storey buildings.
Last April, Sydney-based CFS Retail Trust announced plans to develop two towers - an 11-level hotel and 10-level office - on part of the Chadstone Shopping Centre, also on Dandenong Road in Malvern East.
After selling the Dandenong Road office, Tattersall's moved to rented accommodation in St Kilda Road for a while, but recently quit the state for Queensland.
Bensons later leased the building, in part to Fitness First.