What price for old Geelong Post Office?
Heritage protections, construction limitations and a lack of comparative properties makes putting a value on the old Geelong Post Office a difficult task.
But, to a developer, the intrinsic value lies in the potential to make an impact on Geelong like Deakin University’s waterfront campus or Little Creatures’ South Geelong brewery in repurposing historic buildings for a new use.
Yet talk at City Hall of selling the Ryrie St landmark was deferred this week after community members asked Geelong councillors how they could guarantee its heritage value once it was in private hands.
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Mayor Bruce Harwood says later that further consideration needs to be given to the matter.
Industry sources suggest the former post office could be worth about $5 million, although its heritage status, location and design will reduce the options available for a redevelopment.
They ruled out major redevelopments in the ilk of the WorkSafe or the NDIA headquarters, because the post office building was more than a mere facade.
The Carlton Hotel site, which included the large surrounding car park, sold for more than $10 million in 2017 after Techne Developments won the tender to build the NDIA HQ.
City of Greater Geelong director of finance and strategy Peter Anderson said the old post office was ideally positioned near the revitalised Little Malop St west end strip, the arts precinct and the Geelong Library and Heritage Centre.
In that way, the property is comparable to the Eureka Hotel, which recently sold to a local consortium including Geelong developer Bill Votsaris for close to $3.6 million.
Like the Eureka, the best options for the post office, which was built in the 1890s before the clock tower was added in 1911, are within its existing footprint, placing it in a unique category of historic Geelong buildings open to be repurposed.
Geelong’s waterfront transformation was led by Deakin’s redevelopment of Dalgety woolstores for its city campus, while a former woollen mill at the river end of Swanston St has become a new industrial site and haven for foodies at the Little Creatures brewery.
Anderson says a number of parties have approached the City in the past six months with an interest in the old post office building.
It was added to the Victorian Heritage Register in 1994, the same year Australia Post relocated to a shop in Moorabool St and the property landed in the council’s grasp on a $670,000 interest-free loan in 1996.
It’s since served as an office for various groups under the council’s auspices, though it will be vacant as the City moves to centralise all its activities. The council said any future development would need Heritage Victoria approval under strict heritage guidelines.
Agents speculate that commercial or hospitality uses are the only real options, given the city’s retail heart has long since shifted away to Malop St.
A $3.7 million estimate for the council to renovate the building to a modern office space gives an indication of the base price a developer might fork out to convert the building.
Geelong is crying out for more hotel beds for visitors, with an increasingly packed major events schedule and the arrival of international flights to Avalon Airport.
This article from the Geelong Advertiser first appeared as “Industry insiders say old Geelong Post Office could sell for $5m”.