DEVELOPERS have swooped on the St Leonards Hotel, which was for three years the heart of fictional town Pearl Bay in the popular television show SeaChange.
The waterfront property, on 4046 square metres at 496 The Esplanade, and an adjoining 800-square-metre block, with a house on it, are speculated to have traded for about $4 million to a syndicate of Melbourne builders.
The asset includes a TAB, 10 motel units and a licensed restaurant, bar and beer garden - busy in warmer months given its position overlooking the water.
It is expected part of the huge land parcel will be redeveloped into apartment complexes rising up to four levels and with an end value of more than $40 million.
In the short term, the pub is expected to reopen with a new manager. Chris Foley, of Chris Foley Brokerage and Real Estate, marketed the asset but declined to comment on details, including buyer or price. Those with memories dating to 1999 may remember the auction, attended by about 500 people, when the pub sold for $920,000 to the vendor Mr Foley represented.
St Leonards is about a 90-minute drive from the CBD.
The region has been on the recent radar of developers, with Sydney-based Stockland building a housing estate in nearby Point Lonsdale.
Both St Leonards and Point Lonsdale provided scenes for the ABC television show, which filmed 39 episodes between 1998 and 2000 and starred Sigrid Thornton, Kerry Armstrong and David Wenham. The St Leonards Hotel was known as the Pearl Bay Pub.
In August last year, a consortium of 10 local business identities paid $3 million for the Aireys Inlet Hotel, which was expected to sell to developers given, in part, its spectacular view. Aireys Inlet is about 50 kilometres west of Geelong.
Apartments zipped up
ANOTHER permanent structure is set to rise at the Flemington Road exit of the Tullamarine Freeway - around the divisive but distinctive public art informally known as, among other things, the cheese stick, zipper and sound tube.
This time, from a site at 107-115 Manningham Street in Parkville - an awkward street that once abutted the end of the freeway - builder Pace Development Group is proceeding with a six-level apartment building. A crane marking the start of construction arrived on site this month.
In 2010 Pace paid $9.5 million for what was formerly a block of 24 units on a 4948-square-metre block.
The purchase included a valuable permit for a 163-unit apartment complex, which Pace modified to include more flats.
The development will be on the opposite side of the freeway to the new, 25-level Alexander Lombard Tower in Ascot Vale, developed on part of the former Lombard paper factory that was destroyed by a fire in 2004.
Across town, Pace recently received a permit to develop a colourful, 18-level apartment complex at the St Kilda Junction. The builder is also proposing projects in Brighton, Mentone and Murrumbeena.
Tasty $4.3m buy in Kew
AN INVESTOR from China paid $4.31 million at auction for the building that accommodates Melbourne's newest dining institution.
St Katherine's - or St Kat's as it has become known since opening in May - is the latest restaurant opened by celebrity chef George Calombaris and business associate Shane Delia.
Calombaris, a judge on Channel Ten's MasterChef, is also behind the Press Club in the CBD and Hellenic Republic in Brunswick East.
He pays about $251,000 annual rent to occupy the St Katherine's building at 26-28 Cotham Road in Kew. Based on that rent, the asset traded at a yield of 5.83 per cent - low, given that Cotham Road is not considered a super-prime retail strip by analysts.
The two-storey, 635-square-metre building on a 515 sq m block, with long-term redevelopment potential, has more than 17 metres of road frontage.
Fitzroys' Chris Combi and Mitchell Humphreys marketed the property with Jones Lang LaSalle's Matthieu Lucas and Stuart Taylor.
Latrobe in the swim
LATROBE City Council is embarking on its largest single capital works project, this month unveiling a concept design for a $30 million aquatic centre in Traralgon that will include the biggest indoor pool between Melbourne's eastern suburbs and New South Wales.
About 165 kilometres east of Melbourne, Traralgon is between Morwell and Sale.
The centre will also include an outdoor heated pool with event seating, a children's zero-depth play area, multipurpose rooms and dedicated club rooms for the Traralgon Swimming Club.
Earmarked to replace the current Traralgon outdoor pool at the corner of Breed and Seymour streets, the project will proceed when about $18 million in (external) government and local private funding can be secured.
In the regional city of Bendigo, 150 kilometres north-west of Melbourne, the council recently completed its largest capital works project - a $14.9 million, five-level, 420-bay car park and office.
Smith St works start
IT IS the end of one dank era in Collingwood: the controversial Smith Street project that local developer Banco fought for almost 10 years to develop, finally appears to have started.
This week, Banco started demolishing a collection of rundown low-rise commercial buildings occupying a 6700 sq m parcel between 132 and 172 Smith Street on the eastern side of the grungy but popular strip, about three kilometres north-east of the CBD.
The former Foy & Gibson department store, built about 1886, is the first property to be razed.
The balance of the area, which includes shops developed on a site that in 1914 was Australia's first Coles supermarket, will also be demolished. Coincidentally, the proposed development will include a new Coles, likely to open about the time the supermarket has its centenary.
Banco's original 2003 proposal to build a nine-level, 253-unit complex atop shops and offices was one of the highest-profile planning disputes to follow the introduction of the now defunct Melbourne 2030 planning policy.
In 2006 then planning minister Rob Hulls approved a seven-level, 159-unit complex that would have included retaining and restoring the historic Foy & Gibson facade.
In February the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal permitted demolition of all buildings for the development of an eight-level, 238-unit apartment complex. Banco, however, will reconstruct the former retail emporium's facade, which, before being replaced in 1970, included a parapet and lantern roof.
Banco's new permit allows for 432 car park spaces and a 3561 sq m supermarket. It will include just 394 square metres of office space, compared with the 2633 square metres pitched in the original design.
The developer needs to complete the project by March next year or, more likely, apply to the City of Yarra Council for a permit extension.