Craft brewery or whisky spot could be in Geelong Wintergarden’s future

A tenant is sought to lay out a new vision for the Wintergarden building in central Geelong.
A tenant is sought to lay out a new vision for the Wintergarden building in central Geelong.

The owners of Geelong’s historic Wintergarden are looking to the past to plan for its future.

The heritage-listed building at 51 McKillop St was originally built as a congregational church and prefabricated iron building but has had myriad uses including as a brewery, distillery, army drill hall and most recently as a cafe and nursery.

But owner Grant Porter is seeking a major tenant to take over occupation of the two-storey landmark and start a new path for the building, which has been home to a variety of smaller tenants in recent years.

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Porter wants a tenant with a vision to occupy the ornate interior of the building, including its mezzanine floor added about 20 years ago.

Geelong’s Wintergarden started life as a congregational church but has also been a brewery, distillery and army drill hall. The exterior has been repainted since this photo was taken.

He told the Advertiser his vision is for the historic property to be reborn as perhaps a craft brewery or a whisky bar following a model set by other venues in Geelong and Melbourne converting the traditional interior for a new use.

Other concepts include manchester retailer Bed, Bath N Table’s The Works store at Hawthorn, where a cafe occupies a mezzanine area overlooking the main retail floor.

Porter says the last major tenant operated a cafe and nursery which was a success before the leaseholder had to close the business for personal reasons.

A nursery and cafe was the most recent incarnation, but the previous tenant had to close due to a personal issue, owner Grant Porter says.

Maxwell Collins, Geelong agent Don Hough has launched a new campaign to find a tenant to lease the site.

Hough says the previous use of the building as a home to several small, like-minded businesses could help the tenant to supplement the cost of operating the property.

“It was a cafe/restaurant and had a few supplementary businesses around it, whether it’s crafts, photography, art and a nursery,” Hough says.

A fully operational commercial kitchen is key to the success of the building, whether it’s as a cafe, bar or reception centre.

“All those can certainly be put back into the property but the focus is probably on the hospitality side because it’s got a fully operational commercial kitchen.”

Hough said hospitality could take the form of a cafe or restaurant, a reception centre or catering.

“Over and above that you certainly could value add by having these other businesses aligned or linked in the building,” he says.

A spacious mezzanine area offers food for thought for leaseholders.

Hough says the owner is seeking to install a tenant to take on the entire building.

“I can see pop-up shops, a nursery, florist, giftware or boutique, or art gallery or bookshop.”

The annual lease is $110,000, plus GST and outgoings for the entire site, which includes more than 600sqm of leaseable area and a large block with rear carparking for about 11 cars.

This article from the Herald Sun originally appeared as “Wine, whisky or song, what’s next for Geelong’s Wintergarden”.