‘Worst property in 30 years’, but derelict brothel could be a steal

11th Jan 2017
Adrian Ballantyne

The agent’s promotional blurb says it all: “do not say we haven’t warned you!”.

But a derelict former brothel in inner-city Melbourne could be one of 2017’s biggest bargains, if proposals to demolish the site gain approval after it is auctioned next month.

The commercially zoned property at 234 Coppin St in Richmond was a brothel – Club 234 – as recently as a few years ago, but fell into significant disrepair after the business closed down and squatters moved in.

Despite selling with an adjacent block of land five years ago for $2.3 million, the property is now listed with expectations of just $900,000-plus.

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Agent Anton Wongtrakun, from Dingle Partners, says the property has heritage protection but is in arguably the worst condition he has ever seen, and warns that it is a job for only the most serious renovators and developers.

“I had one in Drummond St in Carlton nearly 30 years ago that had been lived in by a homeless guy for about 20 years,” Wongtrakun says.

“You couldn’t even walk into the house because it stank so much. I’ve never seen anyone living like that, and this is bordering on that one. I just can’t believe people have actually been living in this house, it’s incredible.”

Despite its outward appearance, agents say the property is in shocking condition internally.

Despite its outward appearance, agents say the property is in shocking condition internally.

“We actually had people the other day come to look at it, they walked in the front door and they didn’t even want to go past the front room.”

The two-storey building is listed as having three bedrooms and two bathrooms, but its configuration as a brothel meant the layout was altered and each room was fitted with a shower.

Despite the two-storey building’s shocking state, Wongtrakun says the property has received booming interest because of its potential as a development site, and also because of an neighbouring block of vacant land that was once on the same title and will be auctioned shortly after.

We’ve been quoting $900,000-plus and I might even have to lift that slightly, because we’ve had interest around that $950,000 to $1 million mark

“Probably 50% of the interest in that property has been from the commercial sector,” he says.

“Adjacent to the property is a block of land that used to be on the one title … and we’re going to auction the land a week later.”

“That land’s got a permit for a … four or five-level office building, so (there is) a really interesting development opportunity between the two properties.”

Wongtrakun says the building’s current owners had wanted to demolish it and reattach the two parcels of land, but a demolition application was blocked by Yarra Council.

The property is a job for only the most serious developers and renovators.

The property is a job for only the most serious developers and renovators.

“They did lodge an appeal which is taking place in May, so we’re going to hand all of that material and the planning application to the new buyer, so if they want to pursue that option to maybe look at getting the appeal upheld to demolish, then that will be passed on,” he says.

Interest in the property has been so great that Wongtrakun says the quoted price range of $900,000-plus may not be enough

“We’ve been quoting $900,000-plus and I might even have to lift that slightly, because we’ve had interest around that $950,000 to $1 million mark. It’s very hard to predict how people perceive this (property).

Adjacent to the property is a block of land that used to be on the one title … and we’re going to auction the land a week later

“If you take a chance and say, ‘well let’s say we get the demolition permit’, and you could then get a five-storey building on the site, well suddenly the million dollars seems cheap. But it’s a risk. The council’s knocked it back, and at appeal at VCAT they might say no again and then you’re buying the house as it is.”

Given its zoning, Wongtrakun says the building has drawn interest from a number of commercial developers and owner-occupiers.

“We’ve had people look at it who want to refurbish it as it is and turn it into an office. We’ve had people look at it on the basis of a home office,” he says.

“We’ve even had people look at it on the basis that they might talk to council to see if there’s some chance of using it residentially. We can’t guarantee because of the zoning that you’ll get a complete residential situation, but it’s possible.

“If the demolition permit could be achieved on the house, then that opens up the options. There’s so many combinations and permutations here, that it’s quite an incredible opportunity, in some respects.”

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