Historic central Queensland building enriched by economic growth

The 1898-built, heritage-listed Harbour Board building in Rockhampton was once used to store gold. Picture: realcommercial.com.au/for-sale
The 1898-built, heritage-listed Harbour Board building in Rockhampton was once used to store gold. Picture: realcommercial.com.au/for-sale

It’s anyone’s guess what the future holds for a heritage-listed central Queensland property.

Known as the Harbour Board building, the 1898-built Rockhampton property in central Queensland offers a rich history and strong local economic growth.

The Harbour Board’s sale price has been reduced to buyers over $990,000 down from its original $1.1 million price tag. Buyers are also likely to be attracted to Rockhampton’s robust property market.

Mr Real Estate Rockhampton principal Jason Rayner said central Queensland was positioned as a hotspot in the investment sector.

“Our commercial market has never been stronger with many great investment sales in the last year,” Mr Rayner explained.

“Our community overall has also never been in a stronger position with jobs available everywhere in our region.”

Mr Rayner said a mixed range of investors, both from Queensland and interstate buyers, had inquired about the property which had all the hallmarks of a premium business address including a position on the banks of the Fitzroy River.

“It’s an unquestionably strong building with a great location,” Mr Rayner explained.

“I’ve had all sorts of people looking at it from art gallery owners to restaurateurs to cattle barons.”

Strong economic outlook appeals

Knight Frank Rockhampton managing director Neale Crowe, agreed that the city enjoyed a thriving economy, with several major infrastructure projects underway or planned for the near future.

This includes a $2.25 billion construction and upgrade initiative at Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area at Byfield, 75km north of Rockhampton, as well as the construction of the Rockhampton Ring Road, which will see the Bruce Highway bypass the city.

Pile of wood board sits on the floor of an empty room inside the Harbour Board building in Rockhampton

Many areas of the Harbour Board building still need renovating. Picture: realcommercial.com.au/for-sale

Mr Crowe said the city’s strong economy along with a long-term stable market was in turn attracting an increasing number of investors, particularly over the past 18 months.

“The projects happening at the moment are representative of what’s happening in the property market,” he said.

“The industrial sector’s vacancy rate is coming back to about 10% and the retail sector is picking back up too with strip shops kicking off again.”

Mr Crowe said about 75% of Rockhampton’s commercial buyers were investors and comprised locals from central Queensland’s grazing community along with strong interest from Sydney and Melbourne investors.

“Tenanted investments are sought after with anything with a three to five year lease term being snapped up,” he said.

“This is especially the case in the $5 million-$7 million price range while the $1 million -$1.5 million range is active too.”

According to Real Capital Analytics data, some of the city’s strongest $1 million plus sales in recent times include the Shell Coles Express service station, which sold for $6,736,190 in September 2021.

Image shows the partially exposed upper deck looking back out from the arches at the Harbour Board building in Rockhampton

The grand two-storey building is on the banks of the Fitzroy River. Picture: realcommercial.com.au/for-sale

Two July 2021 sales saw Park Avenue Hotel Motel snapped up for $5.4 million while $4,052,632 was handed over for a 6.4ha parcel of industrial land at 10 Monier Rd.

Backing up the city’s strong commercial sales is its residential values with PropTrack data showing the median house price of $214,500 which comes after a 30% hike in values in the past year.

PropTrack economist Anne Flaherty said Rockhampton’s residential growth rate was well above that of the rest of regional Queensland, with a 10% increase in the same period resulting in median house prices of $495,000.

Grand history of Habour Board survives

The Harbour Board building also has a colourful history which may appeal to some buyers.

The property was built in 1898 for £3,200 as the Port of Rockhampton’s Harbour Board office, according to the State Heritage Register.

Mr Rayner said the building’s “claim to fame” was its two-foot walled safe, which housed gold from Mt Morgan’s mines before river ships transported the precious metal to cities around the world.

Staircase in the Harbour Board building in Rockhampton

The extra-long staircase reaching to the first floor has cedar newel posts, handrails and balustrades. Picture: realcommercial.com.au/for-sale

From 1977, the building housed Fitzroy Shire Council employees and was sold to current 70-year-old owner and local entrepreneur, Peter Coldwell in 2010 for $700,000, according to PropTrack data.

According to an article published by The Courier-Mail in January, the founder of Coldwell Drilling Co. Australasia had major plans to transform the grand masonry building – which he affectionately named the Dig Inn – into a restaurant and museum with offices on the second level and a beer garden at the rear of the property.

However, Mr Raynor explained that Mr Coldwell’s very recent decision to sell the property was due to ill health and the growing realisation of how much work – and money- it will take to bring the property up to scratch.

“Ill health has forced this decision but Mr Coldwell’s vision for this property was cocktails on the balcony with friends,” he said.

Mr Rayner said large parts of the property along with a separate backyard unit, still need to be renovated, while its heritage listing in 1992 means future upgrades are limited.

However, Mr Coldwell has recently rewired the building and there are also plenty of “visionary” buyers attracted to the building’s charm and historic connections.

“When I take people through, there’s a lot of oohs and ahhs,” Mr Rayner said.

“The building has a wonderful character and there’s much more to it than meets the eye, with its sheer size and scale being quite intimidating when you first see it.

“But the future is still to be written and lies in the eyes of the beholder – or new buyer.”