Developer stocks up, expecting better days

COUNTER-CYCLICAL developer Michael Dib is continuing to stockpile inner-city development sites.

COUNTER-CYCLICAL developer Michael Dib is continuing to stockpile inner-city development sites.

Dib's company, Blue Earth Group, which last year paid Macquarie Capital $8.5 million for an Abbotsford development site that the Sydney-based group bought only a couple of years earlier for $12 million, has quietly purchased major blocks in Richmond and Brunswick East, likely to become apartment towers in the medium term.

In Richmond, Blue Earth paid more than $8 million for a 2617-square-metre residential 1 zoned block at 203-213 Burnley Street, capable of accommodating about three apartment towers in a village worth more than $100 million.

About six kilometres north of the CBD in Brunswick East, the developer has paid about $4.7 million, sources say, for a 1451-square-metre site at 22-30 Lygon Street, listed for sale earlier this year by funeral parlour Bledisloe Australia, which has owned it since 1995.

With three street frontages, and near Park Street, which is the Carlton North suburb border, the site has been occupied for years by Giannarelli Funerals.

Neither the Richmond nor Brunswick East site sold with a permit but the Burnley Street property did have an advanced scheme for a residential redevelopment.

Blue Earth Group was one of the first developers to build a major tower in Footscray, its 10-level Allegro building at 250 Barkly Street, completed in 2005. In a show of how fast planners have pushed densities around the suburb, an application for a 31-level tower was lodged with Maribyrnong City Council in April.

Blue Earth Group is also building apartments into silos prominent on Islington Street, Collingwood. It also developed a 6783-square-metre office building at 100 Leicester Street, Carlton, which it sold to Melbourne University for $30 million in 2009.

Ikea applies brakes

SWEDISH retailer Ikea has delayed the start date of a 41,000-square-metre superstore in Melbourne's outer north.

After agreeing to move to Campbellfield in late 2010, Ikea was expected to start construction of its third Melbourne outlet this quarter and after long-time occupant the Pipeworks Market relocated.

But Pipeworks stallholders were told this month that they are permitted to trade until Christmas.

The 400 Mahoneys Road market site has a chequered history in real estate circles, with former owners Gersh Investment Partners and the group once known as MFS Property Group unsuccessfully trying to sell it as an industrial development site in 2008.

The site was listed after the owners failed to convince the council to rezone the property to allow for a bulky goods centre that can trade seven days a week (as Ikea will).

Pipeworks renowned as the first Melbourne venue where one could bungee jump has struggled to find a replacement site for its stallholders and regular customers. Relocation to the former Chemist Warehouse head office site on the banks of Merri Creek in Reservoir, reported in The Age last December, fell through.

A spokesman for Ikea has not responded to calls seeking comment. It is unknown if the retailer will start construction at Campbellfield next year.

Win for Folkestone

FOLKESTONE has successfully applied to have a prominent Altona North industrial site rezoned.

The move, approved by the Hobsons Bay council this week, allows for the construction of office, as well as industrial, property on the former Cabots site at 302-330 Millers Road, about 10 kilometres south-west of Melbourne CBD.

Under the former zoning, the biggest office a developer could build on the site was 500 square metres the equivalent of three or four standard suburban shops.

A bulky goods centre is also earmarked for the Altona North site, which abuts a large Bunnings store. Folkestone and joint venture partner AMP Capital Investors paid $20 million for the former industrial site in 2007.

Rejection in Bundoora

A HUGELY controversial plan to replace a former Smorgy's restaurant in the northern suburb of Bundoora with an apartment compound identified by three 10-level apartment towers has been flattened by the council.

Darebin councillors unanimously voted against the $200 million-plus proposal that would also have included two seven-level towers.

All up, developer Park Rise Australia pencilled in 474 flats, 11 food and drink premises, 542 car-park spaces and 317 bike spaces for the 1091 Plenty Road block about 16 kilometres north of town near La Trobe University.

Council said the orientation, mass and height of the proposed residential village abutting Bundoora Park was wrong. It is not known if Park Rise Australia will now propose a lower density application, or appeal against the council's veto to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. Earlier this month VCAT created a stir around ritzy Armadale, approving a 466-unit apartment compound beside the Toorak train station.

Coolaroo factory sells

SOME property trading is happening as a consequence of ASX-listed company Pacific Brands' controversial decision to import a large chunk of its stock from manufacturing plants offshore.

In Coolaroo, in Melbourne's north, there is speculation that Pacific Brands made nearly $10 million for its supersized, disused factory at 23-49 Maffra Street, near the Upfield train station.

The site sold to private investors three years after chief executive Sue Morphet announced it was no longer becoming competitive to manufacture clothes in Australia.

Pacific Brands announced 1800 job cuts, including 554 from Victoria, about 300 of which were based at Coolaroo, about 19 kilometres north of Melbourne.

Meanwhile, east of the city in Nunawading, the Perth owner of the factory that had been tenanted by Pacific Brands for years listed the site for sale this week.

Aspen Group can expect about $18 million, sources say, for 72-96 Station Street office warehouse, which is tenanted to Autobarn and Metcash.

Pacific Brands broke a 15-year lease it signed for the 4.2 hectare factory in 2005. Its brands include Bonds, Holeproof, Kayser, Mossimo, Sheridan, Slazenger, Stussy and Tontine.

The new tenants pay almost $1.5 million annual rent for the Nunawading property on leases that will expire in 2026. Colliers International's Tony Iuliano and David Kalb are marketing the property with Dane Nichols and James Templeton. Mr Templeton was recently announced as the new managing director of Knight Frank's Melbourne operation.

Tidy sum for Regis

AGED care accommodation provider Regis is making more efficient use of a Malvern East nursing home site even if it means the ritzy south-east will become less leafy.

Regis has quietly listed for sale a hectare of land that once formed part of its Weeroona Nursing Home on the south-east corner of Waverley Road and Serrell Street.

Subdivided into three lots, the blocks all fronting Serrell Street are expected to reap Regis about $10 million, sources say money it will inject into developing an apartment-type nursing home on land it will retain fronting Waverley Road.

Trees and parkland that formed part of the former Weeroona complex have recently been cleared. Stockdale and Leggo's Damian Merchan and James Thomas are representing Regis.

A couple years ago Regis unsuccessfully tried for a permit to replace nine single-level units on the easternmost part of its Malvern East block with multistorey townhouses that would have been offered to the private market.

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