Something to cheer about for the nurses union.THE Victorian branch of the Australian Nursing Federation – a financial winner from the scandal that recently ruined the Health Services Union – has outmuscled developers for a supersized block at the northern tip of the CBD, between Queen Victoria Market and the Haymarket roundabout.

The adjoining properties, low-rise buildings including a two-level retail premises at 529-533 Elizabeth Street and a four-level office at 535-541 Elizabeth Street occupy a substantial 1519-square-metre block and were expected to sell to a builder when they were listed for sale in July.

Both Coalition and Labor state governments have declared this precinct, often defined by agents as Elizabeth Street North and to date filled with older, low-rise commercial buildings, as appropriate for higher-density redevelopment.

It is expected the ANF will build a new headquarters on part of the site. The ANF owner-occupies a property across the road at 540 Elizabeth Street, which is speculated will eventually be sold for about $20 million.

CBRE director Mark Wizel and colleague Josh Rutman marketed the Elizabeth Street properties. Neither agent would comment on buyer details but said of the campaign that most buyer interest was from local and offshore developers.

“The sale adds to a very strong month of Melbourne CBD and immediate CBD fringe development site sales,” Mr Wizel said, adding that six August transactions sold for close to $81 million, in 70 per cent of cases to developers from mainland China.

The Elizabeth Street sale is the latest in a string by cashed-up unions outmuscling developers for prime sites.

Last June, the Australian Education Union paid $16 million for a riverside office in Trenerry Crescent, Abbotsford – next door to its headquarters. Worth about $30 million, the sites can accommodate more than 500 apartments, according to sources, but are retained by the AEU as investments.

In late 2010, the Electrical Trades Union purchased 200 Arden Street in North Melbourne, later selling its Carlton headquarters for $5 million to local developer Piccolo.

BIC signs office deal

FRENCH multinational BIC – maker of the popular pens – will move its operations from Melbourne’s outer-eastern suburbs, committing to naming rights and 916 square metres of office space in St Kilda Road.

BIC Australia has leased the fourth level of the 7693-square-metre building at 574 St Kilda Road, opposite the Wesley College oval, in a deal that fully occupies the building owned by local private investors the Juilliard Group. BIC will leave its long-time home in Keysborough, 27 kilometres from the CBD, in mid October.

It is believed BIC is paying annual rent of about $260 a square metre for the office space and naming rights. The initial lease term is for 10 years. Colliers International and Thorburn Commercial leased the space for Juilliard, which owns and manages a large portfolio of CBD and suburban assets.

Southbank offering

MELBOURNE private investment house Henkell Brothers has listed for sale a Southbank office building – a site that once served as the Gas & Fuel Corporation’s super fund headquarters.

More recently occupied by the International Design School, the 102 Dodds Street office, being offered with vacant possession, is expected to sell for about $8.5 million to an investor.

On a 1576-square-metre block, and zoned mixed-use within the Southbank Structure Plan, the site is also expected to arouse developer interest.

CBRE’s Justin Clarkson, Alex Zent and Mark Granter are representing Henkell Brothers.

‘New York’ skyscraper

CONSTRUCTION of what will be a prominent and sleek 68-level residential tower – marketed to Asia-based investors as Melbourne’s first New York skyscraper – has started.

The 568 Collins Street building will include 562 flats and rise from a site next door to the strata-titled McPhersons Building, which rises just three levels and was in 2003 refitted as a retail and restaurant emporium.

Until airspace at the McPherson building is sold to developers – something at this stage considered a long-term prospect but was an option not long ago – occupants of apartments within 568 Collins Street will enjoy view security to the east.

The Collins Street site, formerly a four-level office known as the Transcomm Centre, was bought by late local investor Spiros Stamoulis for $5 million in 2000. The new tower, set to rise about 220 metres and include about 227 car spaces, is being developed by his son Harry.

Other major residential apartment towers proposed for Melbourne’s skyline are mostly based around Southbank and include the 226-metre 70 Southbank Boulevard proposal, the 236-metre The Falls proposal and the 255-metre Prima Pearl project, currently under construction.

The Rudd-Gillard government relaxed foreign ownership laws in 2008, allowing offshore investors to buy all units within new apartment complexes. The move resulted in some developers marketing Melbourne apartment complexes exclusively to foreign investors. The former Howard government restricted foreign ownership of apartments to 50 per cent.

Doncaster site for sale

SYDNEY-BASED retail giant Westfield is selling a 5457-square-metre block of land behind its massive Doncaster shopping centre.

The 1 Grosvenor Street site, currently an open-air car park, is expected to sell to a developer for about $8 million.

Before offering the site, Westfield obtained a permit for a five-building, 185-unit apartment village that would take advantage of Doncaster Hill’s position and views of the city skyline and the Dandenong ranges. The tallest tower within the complex Westfield designed will rise nine levels.

Last year, Bunnings paid about $25 million for a collection of buildings adjoining an entrance of the Westfield shopping complex on Doncaster Road. Bunnings plans to build a new outlet beneath an apartment tower. Not far away, Sydney-based developer Mirvac plans to replace the Eastern Golf Course with a $1 billion mixed-use village.

Colliers International’s Shane Dargue and Peter Bremner are representing Westfield. Last week it was reported Places Victoria and the City of Manningham council would redevelop apartments in Montgomery Street, Doncaster East, near a collection of shops on Doncaster Road.

$11m for Port parcel

THE Bob Jane business is believed to have paid $11 million for a massive parcel of land within a Port Melbourne pocket recently gazetted by Planning Minister Matthew Guy for intense residential redevelopment.

The site at 138 Buckhurst Street covers 5400 square metres, and includes about 6600 square metres of office and warehouse space over two levels. Bob Jane is expected to owner-occupy the premises, possibly obtaining a permit to redevelop airspace as apartments in the longer term. The site is only a few hundred metres from the Melbourne Convention Centre.

Mr Guy recently announced the Baillieu government’s ”Grand CBD” plan, which would see industrial properties redeveloped as major towers, within new villages. The planning strategy would see 100-level-plus towers developed between Port Melbourne beaches and the CBD.

Raoul Salter of Gross Waddell declined to comment on any part of the Buckhurst Street deal, which he negotiated off-market.

Twitter: @marcpallisco

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