NEWS PROPERTY

Accommodation provider Benbrell has bought a corner site property at 215-217 Parramatta Road in Haberfield for $8.5 million from a local property developer, with plans to put up a 76-room hotel. This is the first entry into the Sydney market for Benbrell which runs accommodation in Western Australia and Queensland. Ray White and Knight Frank sold the 1465sq m corner sites.

Sydney’s iconic hotel the Harbour View Hotel has been sold in less than a week for a reported $12 million. The hotel sold after just five days, having come to the market for the first time in 20 years. The private outgoing owners are said to be retiring and this buy represents the new owners’ first hotel investment.

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BPM and the Uniting Church has sold an eight-storey office building in central Melbourne with approval for a hotel development. The tower at 130 Little Collins Street, the Uniting Church Centre, sold to Jeff Xu’s Golden Age Group along with a permit for a 27-storey Elenberg Fraser-designed hotel. The permit comes courtesy on a joint venture which the Uniting Church struck over the site in 2015 with developer BPM, led by Jonathan Hallinan. The 184-room hotel was originally knocked back by Melbourne Council, but was approved late last year after the church took the case to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. Owned by the church’s property trust, the existing building comprises a net lettable area of 3,797 square metres, comprising eight levels of office, ground floor retail, a chapel, and 15 car spaces. The Uniting Church moved to offload the building ahead of its move into Charter Hall’s redeveloped Wesley Place tower at 130 Lonsdale Street, due for completion in 2020. The Little Collins Street property was sold with a leaseback to the Uniting Church.

Pub and hotel operator Oscars Hotel Group has added to its large NSW portfolio after buying the Empire Hotel in Annandale for $10.3 million. The Empire Hotel stands on an 803-square-metre corner site at 103 Parramatta Road in Sydney’s west and includes a public bar and bistro, 24 hotel rooms and 16 gaming machines. Property records show the property last changed hands for $4.9 million in December 2009 when the D’Agostino family bought it from the ING Entertainment Fund. It sold at the time with a long-term lease in place to operator Feros Group. Oscars Hotel Group is led by brothers Mario and Bill Gravanis and has a portfolio of more than two dozen hospitality and accommodation venues spread across NSW. Hotels in the portfolio include the Novotel Wollongong Northbeach hotel (bought for about $48 million in 2014) and the Novotel Sydney Brighton Beach (bought for over $100 million in 2015). Pubs in the group include the Bristol Arms in the Sydney CBD and the Como Hotel in Sutherland Shire, which were both acquired in late 2016 from Geoff Dixon and John Singleton’s Australian Pub Fund for a combined $25 million. The sale of the separately held freehold and leasehold to the Empire Hotel was brokered by Nick Butler of JLL Hotels & Hospitality Group. Included in the sale was a two-level commercial office space at the rear of the property. Alongside gaming revenue, Mr Butler said accommodation has more recently become a sought-after, high-margin revenue stream with many hoteliers looking to properly activate hotel rooms. “Fundamentally, the Empire is an exceptionally presented hotel and a great piece of city fringe property with the potential to add more rooms, and clearly an underdone gaming trading opportunity,” he said. JLL national pubs director John Musca said the weight of private and public sector capital into the space was “heavy at the moment as evidenced in high transaction volumes but it is not indiscriminate and based on asset class fundamentals”.

In the mid-19th century the Diggers Rest Hotel was one of Victoria’s busiest pubs. As the name suggests, the hotel, built in 1854, was a stopping point on the road to the diggings, the gold fields around Ballarat, Castlemaine and Bendigo. But a fire destroyed the historic pub in 2008 and Diggers Rest, the township, has been without its watering hole. Its condition is described as “ruinous” on the Victorian Heritage Database. However, a condition of the recently obtained planning permit requires the restoration of four original walls and the chimneys of the 1854 pub. The permit allows for a new pub, restaurant, reception centre, distillery and a 70-plus room hotel. Cropley Commercial’s Gerard Hurry is handling the campaign. The burnt out hotel is on a large 2.67ha site at 1434-1466 Old Calder Highway. It’s in a green wedge zone close to the fast-growing Sunbury area and likely to fetch about $2 million.

The land and buildings housing one of New Plymouth’s biggest vertically-integrated inner-city hospitality hubs – with more than 150-years of history – have been placed on the market for sale. The iconic property at 162 Devon Street East on the corner of Gover Street contains the boutique 15-room State Hotel, three separate eating and drinking establishments, including an upmarket meeting room/function venue. It also contains an unrelated retail tenancy. The 1,538 square metre two-storey building sits on an apex site of some 1,164 square metres of freehold land zoned Business A in New Plymouth Council’s plan.

Sydney merchant banker David Kingston is having another go at selling the Long Island Resort in Queensland’s Whitsunday Islands. Price expectations this time round are understood to be in excess of $15 million for the eight-hectare property, originally developed by Contiki and owned for the past 25 years by Mr Kingston’s Ocean Hotels. The closed Long Island Resort site is situated at the top of Long Island, a nine-kilometre, narrow island west of Hamilton Island and just seven kilometres east of Airlie Beach on the Great Barrier Reef. It was last listed for sale in 2016 when price expectations were about $20 million. At the time it was offered for sale alongside another Ocean Hotels-owned resort, Club Crocodile Airlie Beach, which was bought by Singapore’s Well Smart Investment Holdings for $9 million in July 2016. Mr Kingston, a pub owner and former managing director of investment banking at Rothschild, will be banking on the improved tourism climate and $100 million refurbishments of Hayman and Daydream Island to draw out a buyer this time round. He has also engaged PlusArchitecture to prepare plans that include 44 luxury villas, a spa, a restaurant and an infinity pool overlooking Happy Bay. The sale of Long Island Resort is being steered by Wayne Bunz and Hayley Manvell from CBRE Hotels – the same agents appointed to sell the resort in 2016. “Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef islands are going through a period of resurgence, underpinned by $55 million in investment from the Queensland government to get the region’s resort sector back open and operating,” Ms Manvell said. “This investment will facilitate the delivery of critical infrastructure with innovative environmental outcomes and has led to four new or refurbished Great Barrier Reef island resorts opening in 2019.” Long Island is home to Elysian Retreat – a boutique, 10-room eco resort that was opened this year by the owners of the Sojourn Retreats group. The turnaround in the performance of the Whitsunday region – following devastating cyclones – was revealed in the recent Hotel Price Index published by Hotels.com, which showed a 10 per cent surge in international hotel booking rates.