119-year-old Ballarat building on the market for the first time

The building was built in 1902. Picture: realcommercial.com.au/for-sale
The building was built in 1902. Picture: realcommercial.com.au/for-sale

In the property world, it’s rare to see a building hit the market for the first time in 119 years, and particularly one that has been in the same family for four generations.

But that’s the case with the history-laden Berry Anderson & Co building that will go to auction in Ballarat later this month.

It’s 73-year-old owner Henry Berry is the great grandson of Andrew Burgess Berry, who started a printing, bookbinding and packaging business in 1899 along with his brother Henry and business partner John Anderson, and built its premises in 1902.

Mr Berry spent 45 years working for the family business. He closed its large timber doors for the last time in 2018, having run the operation for 21 years.

“It isn’t easy parting with it,” Mr Berry said. “If I had purchased the building myself and I had finished with the use of it, I wouldn’t think twice about selling it, but seeing it’s been in the family for so long, it’s been quite a different type of decision to make.”

The building has remained in the same family for four generations. Picture: realcommercial.com.au/for-sale

The opportunity to revive a landmark heritage building is exciting potential buyers in its hometown of Ballarat and further afield.

“We have been flooded with enquiries,” said selling agent Charles Kennedy of Colliers International – Ballarat. “It’s been sensational.”

Mr Kennedy said the listing had attracted interest from developers looking at a mix of residential and commercial use and members of the local arts community who could envisage a gallery and workshop area on the ground floor, among others.

“With property values in Ballarat being so much lower than in Melbourne, or other capital cities, the opportunity to acquire one of these trophy properties and put your own touch to it and receive a substantial windfall from the development of it, is pretty unique,” said Mr Kennedy.

Opening the doors of the vacant 119-year-old building is like lifting the lid of a treasure box. Natural light floods the cavernous 654sqm warehouse through its sawtooth ceiling, revealing an array of period features and artefacts of the once lively printing trade.

There’s a large 1855 binding press sitting idle, an antique guillotine and two paper bag machines that the vendor’s great-grandfather brought back from England in 1912.

Mr Berry lives just a few blocks away and has spent the last two and a half years cleaning out “mountains of old paperwork” and disposing of equipment.

“I’m not a distressed seller,” he said. “I’ve been contemplating selling the building for the last four to five years.

“There was just so much we had to clean out. We would do a bit today, and a bit tomorrow and the next day, we wouldn’t do anything. Still it’s been quite intensive.”

Mr Berry said he expects he will feel apprehensive come auction day and admitted he would like to see some sort of industry conducted in the old building in the future.

“It’s really a blank canvas though, you could do what you like with it. I’ve been told you could convert it into living spaces.”

The property has been described as something of a blank canvas. Picture: realcommercial.com.au/for-sale

Ballarat, the third largest-city in Victoria, is renowned for protecting and maintaining its heritage buildings, many of which were built in the prosperous days of the gold rush. According to Mr Kennedy, a number in the CBD have been successfully converted by local developers experienced in working within the City of Ballarat’s strict heritage policies.

The Berry Anderson & Co building is in a heritage precinct and classified as a “contributory building” under the City of Ballarat’s heritage overlay.

Town planner Nicole Burns said the council would be “very protective” of the building’s façade, but had no internal controls.

Any proposed changes to the external part of the building, including painting it, would trigger a planning permit, she said.

The property will go to auction on Friday 21 May at noon.

Mr Kennedy said he is expecting it to sell in the vicinity of $1.1 million to $1.5 million.