A MODEST double-storey data centre in a low-rise pocket of South Melbourne is set to make way for what may be the first landmark to rise as part of the state government's contentious multibillion-dollar Fishermans Bend project - the largest urban infill project in Australia.
Self-professed "interventionist" Planning Minister Matthew Guy is reviewing a major development application which would see the IBM-leased premises at 134-142 Ferrars Street replaced with a 50-level apartment building with 381 flats and 214 car parks.
If developed, the building - which is just outside of the central business area (said to include the CBD, Southbank and Docklands) - would rise 160 metres.
Despite being opposite a site recently announced by the Baillieu government to become a primary school, few of the apartments within the proposed Ferrars Street project would be considered family-friendly - the building is configured with 145 one-bedroom units and 226 two-bedroom flats.
The application seeks to build just 10 three-bedroom apartments.
Mr Guy's significant Capital City rezoning of a huge 240 hectares of land in Fishermans Bend land in early July 2012, to allow for what might be Melbourne's first 100-level-plus apartment buildings, was criticised by the Port Phillip Council which had spent years formulating a lower density residential-based urban renewal plan for the area.
The Sydney-based owner of 134 Ferrars Street purchased the site on July 25.
Fishermans Bend will comprise four high-density precincts including Montague, where 134 Ferrars Street is located, Lorimer, Sandridge and Wirraway.
Atari House sold
ADAPTING the residential adage of buying the worst house in the best street to the commercial sphere, local developer Hallmarc has paid $13 million for the rundown 14 Queens Road office known for years as Atari House.
Developed in 1974, the 13-level brown-brick building, about three kilometres south of the CBD, was offloaded by Sydney-based Denison Funds Management which acquired it as part of a 12-property portfolio from Melbourne-based Viento Property Fund last April.
Leased predominantly to small office tenants on short-term leases, the building returns annual rent of just over $1 million. On that basis it sold on a low yield of 7.99 per cent.
"Buyers considering 14 Queens Road were confronted with a number of challenging issues including a council order on fire services, high vacancy and the need to inject substantial capital expenditure to maintain then enhance the rental income," said MP Burke Commercial director Pat Burke, who sold the asset with colleague Michael Pound and Colliers International's Peter Bremner and Leigh Melbourne.
"Whilst most buyers saw obstacles, Hallmarc saw opportunity."
Most of the asset's value is in the substantial 2327 square metre block size. The site is located at the more valuable city-end of Queens Road. Upper levels of the building enjoy view security over Albert Park Lake and Port Phillip Bay.
Hallmarc said a number of development options were now being considered.
The builder has historically focused on industrial and commercial projects in Melbourne's suburbs but has in recent years ventured into large residential assignments including the Kingston Park complex in Highett, near Southland.
Denison owns another office on a similar size block at nearby 11 Queens Road. It will use funds from the sale of No. 14 to retire debt.
Interestingly, gaming company Atari, which relinquished naming rights at 14 Queens Road in 2009, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the United States last month.
Stuart Mill auction
THE Anglican Church is expecting about $200,000 for a two-hectare property at Stuart Mill, on the Sunraysia Highway, about 230 kilometres north-west of Melbourne.
The camping, conference and accommodation complex, able to sleep 48 people in 12 bedrooms, has been owned by the church for 50 years. Stuart Mill is about a 15-minute drive from Avoca, St Arnaud and Maryborough.
Agent Bart O'Sullivan of Pat Rice & Hawkins will auction the property next month.
WHITEGOODS giant Whirlpool will quit its national headquarters in Scoresby and move closer to town.
The company has leased 1200 square metres within the Tally Ho Business Park on the corner of Burwood Highway and Springvale Road in Burwood East, about 17 kilometres east of the CBD.
Jones Lang LaSalle's Joshua Tebb negotiated the deal on behalf of the outgoing building tenant, Ixia Australia. Mr Tebb said Whirlpool was attracted to the modern fitout.
In a boon for the building owner, Whirlpool also agreed to occupy the building for a longer term than Ixia had.
Whirlpool's outgoing Dalmore Drive facility, about 25 kilometres south-east of town, backs onto the near-new EastLink tollway and is prominent to commuters between Wellington and Ferntree Gully roads.
Labor Party war room
SOME city leasing agents may have twigged a federal election announcement was imminent after the ALP leased a "war room".
The ALP last May sought space and leased in July 640 square metres at 45 William Street, now revealed to be for strategy meetings ahead of the September 14 election. MP Burke Commercial director Pat Burke negotiated the 18-month lease for building owner Henkell Brothers.
The term "war room" was used in a documentary which followed the presidential strategies of Bill Clinton in his campaign to become US president in the early 1990s.
The then incumbent Howard government leased a war room at 120 Collins Street in May 2007, about five months before it sought
re-election in October 2007.
Dinner Plain Hotel
THE prominent Dinner Plain Hotel - funded in 1986 using loans from Labor's catastrophic Victorian Economic Development Corporation (an authority set up to kickstart the Victorian economy, but which contributed to almost bankrupting it) - is for sale and expected to fetch about $1.2 million.
Developed by a consortium including director of John H Castran real estate John Castran, prominent businessmen Professor Peter McIntyre and Geoff Henke, the pub is considered the heart of the ski village of Dinner Plain.
The hotel is well-known for serving cattlemen and their horses refreshments at the bar.
Now owned by barrister John Ribbands, former owner of the Metung Hotel (and campaigner against Victorian land taxes), the hotel will be auctioned later this month.
Poor management was one factor said to have caused the VEDC to collapse after it provided $450 million in loan and equity assistance to businesses. TriContinental, which also collapsed, was one of the many groups that didn't repay the government.
"We were one of the only dickheads that did [repay]," reminisces Mr Castran, who is coincidentally the hotel's marketing agent.