Mystery buyer of Sydney’s iconic Italian Forum revealed
The new owner of Sydney late night institution the Pickled Possum has emerged as the buyer of Sydney’s famed Italian Forum and plans to relaunch the much loved cultural space.
The iconic Leichhardt property in the city’s inner west is to embark on what has been dubbed an “exciting period of revitalisation” by the vendor, Italian community organisation, Co. As. It, which will remain involved.
Co. As. It picked up the site for $2.8m in 2014 after the forum’s previous owners fell into voluntary administration in 2013. The property has since decayed, with empty shopfronts and restaurants, with the decline worsened by the pandemic.
The sale of the cultural centre and public piazza to private developer Redstone for $11m was announced last week.
The Australian can reveal that low-profile investor Robert Paterson, who has been linked by corporate filings to Redstone, is behind the play.
The North Shore businessman, who went by the identity of “Possum Bob” when buying and then reopening the Pickled Possum karaoke bar, has yet to comment on the latest purchase.
But he has revitalised the Neutral Bay nightclub, which reopened in 2021 after a post-pandemic facelift, including new state-of-the-art karaoke facilities and sound upgrades.
In a potential pointer to the motivations behind a move on the Leichhardt property, the businessman said in 2021 he was excited to relaunch the Pickled Possum, adding he “wanted to preserve it because it’s such an institution”. “In Sydney we’ve lost too many of these places to redevelopment,” he said at the time.
Under the sale agreement for the Leichhardt property Co. As. It will provide its guidance on a development masterplan and overall vision. Redstone will also provide Co. As. It with 20 days a year of cultural use for the Italian Forum to keep up its community events and activities.
The tie-up between the two organisations is intended to revitalise the precinct’s 5000sq m public realm via upgraded amenities, additional retail opportunities, more green space and cultural facilities.
A statement from Co. As. It said the community and owners of the privately held retail tenancies, restaurants and residential apartments, would be “important contributors” to the precinct’s rejuvenation. Thomas Camporeale, general manager of Co. As. It, said the planned redevelopment was “a once-in-a-generation opportunity” to revitalise the area and lift the standard of facilities and public space into the modern era.
“The Italian Forum presently requires significant upgrades to cement its future as a prosperous public place, in order to continue its cultural mission,” said Mr Camporeale.
“The redevelopment of the Italian Forum by Redstone will ensure that its proud and rich history will be protected for decades to come.”
The statement said that Redstone’s “development vision” was to create a thriving cultural precinct.
“It intends to make the celebrated Italian Forum an exemplar of global precinct design – one that prioritises the public realm through sustainability initiatives and greening, as well delivering vast cultural, social and economic benefits to the community,” the group said.
Settlement between the two organisations is expected to take place later in the year.
The redevelopment of the Italian Forum by Redstone will ensure that its proud and rich history will be protected for decades to come