GPT: Queen and Collins project expected to attract Afterpay

Gothic goes modern.

Buy now, pay later finance company Afterpay is slated to bring new life to one of Melbourne’s most famous office complexes — the revamped Gothic-style buildings that once served as the ANZ Bank’s headquarters.

Property company GPT bought the historic buildings on the corner of Collins and Queen Streets in 2016, and the bank moved out two years ago as part of a deal that is one of the city’s largest property plays.

GPT picked up the buildings for $275m for its main wholesale fund. It’s now finishing off a $238m refurbishment project on the main 34-storey office tower and the historic surrounding properties.

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The original buildings were born of the gold rush and economic boom at the end of the 19th century and were designed by a specialist in soaring cathedrals, William Wardell, whose vision for The Gothic Bank saw it become one of Melbourne’s best-known buildings.

Soon after Wardell’s Gothic Bank in 1887 came the addition of the Safe Deposit Building and the former stock exchange at 380 Collins Street — which set the precinct up as the city’s financial focal point.

The complex was overhauled in the 1980s, with the Queen & Collins Tower providing its own take on the celebrated Melbourne Gothic style.

In its latest life, the building will include not only unique designs, but also a concierge service.

The ANZ kept control of the most prominent heritage building, the Gothic Bank building that was the head office of the English, Scottish & Australian Bank, but most remaining areas are being pitched as new office spaces.


Renders of The Queen and Collins project by GPT.

Co-working giant WeWork had been slated to take about half the revamped space in the main tower at 100 Queen Street. But these talks stalled in 2019, and then COVID-19 struck last year.

The companies declined to comment. But winning Afterpay is tipped to spark a new round of activity in the building, which could gain a name for technology tenants, who are one of the few active sectors in Melbourne looking to expand.

A deal — which would see Afterpay move from smaller digs in Collins Street — is yet to be finalised. But getting the group to move would be a coup for the GPT Wholesale Office Fund, which has pitched the building’s rebirth as one of the city’s most exciting spaces.

Securing the company would also be a shot in the arm for the office leasing market, which is facing higher vacancies, partly as workers are making a slow return to their desks, and falling rents and rising incentives for tenants as a consequence.

Technology tenants appear to be an exception, with Amazon also making a big move by taking space in a new Charter Hall development at 555 Collins Street.

Renders of The Queen and Collins project by GPT.

As part of GPT’s works a glass atrium is being removed and the three historic buildings will be linked by a series of four ‘Campiellos’ or outdoor courtyards and laneways.

GPT is reworking the properties to help firms draw back workers into the city with the lower levels of Queen and Collins to house restaurants and cafes.

The complex includes the Grand Cathedral Room, with columns, arches and stained-glass feature windows, with the space to appeal to top eateries.

A new basement bar will be tucked underneath the Queen and Collins Street precinct.

— Ben Wilmot

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