Bernard’s Magic Shop has performed its most astonishing act – disappearing, on its 80th year anniversary.
The iconic retailer this week assigned the West Melbourne lease it committed to in 2015 to another tenant and, when The Age visited on Wednesday, was moving out.
The lease transfer comes six months after the shop’s caretaker for the past 25 years, a magician only ever reported as Kristina, flagged the business’ future was as an e-commerce offering. Its bricks and mortar store was negatively affected over the years, Kristina said, by a combination of dwindling patronage, high rents and inconvenient customer parking.
Bernard’s opened in 1937 at 211 Elizabeth Street – an address synonymous with the magic retailer until the building sold to investors two years ago for $7 million. When the new owners subsequently sought to increase the rent by about 70 per cent to the market rate, Bernard’s relocated to 355 Victoria Street.
Last September, WB Simpson director Richard Simpson was appointed to find a new tenant to take over the double-storey building just outside the CBD grid.
In doing so, it is an the end of an era for the city, and the business, started by two businessman who chose the name Bernard after their friend who was apparently very lucky. Katrina bought the business from another magician owner, Gerald Taylor.
Financial reasons are behind several other landmark city retailers relocating or shutting in recent years including Georges which operated from the east end of Collins Street for 115 years until 1995.
In 2009, bookstore McGills shut after 149 years in the city – one of the reasons cited also being a rise in the market rent.
Also in that year, Georgina Weir, daughter of late Le Louvre founder Lilian Wightman, sold the Collins Street building which housed the exclusive retailer for more than 80 years to a Queensland superannuation group for $13.1 million on long settlement terms.
Le Louvre – which Lilian Frank once said even millionaires had to take a deep breath before walking into – relocated to a rented, red brick building at 2 Daly Street, South Yarra.
Hains family pays $8m for a quieter neighbourhood
A member of the wealthy Hains family, which manages the diversified Portland House Group enterprise, is speculated to be paying a prominent aged care entrepreneur some $8 million for a block of flats next door to his family home in Melbourne’s inner south-east.
Neither the selling agency, vendor or a Hain family representative provided a comment about the deal said to have been quietly negotiated last year. It is unknown whether the apartment block will stay or be razed for a backyard.
Portland House Group’s Collins Street office is a grand three-storey terrace built in 1872 for Henry Miller. The Hains family reported to have a fortune in excess of $2.3 billion.
Four charities reap $8.2m Hawthorn East spoils
Four Melbourne-based charities will share the $8.23 million proceeds from the sale of a Hawthorn East apartment complex to an investor last week.
The property at 531-535 Tooronga Road, with rear laneway access, was offered for the first time since the 1960s. Configured with three buildings and 11 dwellings, the 2664-square-metre land holding provides medium density redevelopment potential.
However, the selling agents also targeted prestige new home builders and investors – the unrenovated units returning $161,000 per annum in rent.
Woodards chief executive officer John Piccolo auctioned the site before a large crowd. Six suitors contested for the asset making 65 offers after the starting bid of $4 million.
Mr Piccolo managed the campaign with colleagues Jason Hearn and Caroline Hammill.
The sale price values the Hawthorn East land at about $3000 per square metre, Mr Hearn said.
Splitting the $8.2 million are the Peter Macallum Cancer Institute, Aquarium Society of Victoria, the Scotch College Foundation and Baptcare.
Council rejects two suburban apartment proposals
Local councils have rejected two high-rise apartment plans forcing the applicants to amongst other things, lower proposed maximum heights – or put the matter to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal to decide.
North of town, Salta’s plans to build a 14-storey and two 10-level buildings on part of the Preston Market car park, was refused by the Darebin City Council which criticised height and traffic effects. The potential reduction in car parking for users of the retail complex was also cited as a negative impact of the proposal.
In the south-east, the Glen Eira council has refused Cavalry Health Care Bethlehem’s request to build a 19-level building on a hospital site in Caulfield South. The not-for-profit group’s proposed tower would have included additional hospital space, a retirement village and residential aged care.
Benson secures parkside Hawthorn office
Residential developer Benson Property Group has paid $10.5 million for an office building in one of Melbourne’s most exclusive pockets.
The builder outmuscled owner occupiers, investors and other developers to acquire 32-34 Burwood Road, Hawthorn – opposite St James Park.
The site is at the south-east corner of Yarra Street, a tree-lined thoroughfare with grand homes including one which sold last year for more than $4.5 million.
On a 1221-square-metre block, the under-utilised Burwood Road property is configured with a single-storey 937-square-metre office atop a 29-bay basement car park. It sold on a yield of 2.7 per cent based on the yearly rental return of $286,759.
Benson is expected to replace the site with a luxury apartment complex targeting wealthy, downsizing locals.
GormanKelly agent Mario Nobrega said many developers are shifting their focus from smaller investment grade apartments to larger, luxury dwellings, to cater for the owner-occupier market.
As such, office buildings in premium locations are on the radar for residential builders, he added. A lease to a glass manufacturer expires in 2018 with no further options.
Mr Nobrega said this site’s parkland views and side access to exclusive Yarra Street resulted in more than 50 requests for further information. GormanKelly colleague Robert Kelly with Jones Lang LaSalle’s Peter Sprekos, Marcus Quinn and Lincoln Reynolds, marketed then auctioned the asset.
In the immediate area, outgoing Australia Post chief executive Ahmed Fahour – the country’s highest paid public servant – paid some $20 million for the historic Invergowrie estate which is now undergoing a $4.5 million renovation. Next door, another historic mansion, Avon Court, with its seven kitchens, also traded for about that sum a couple of years ago.
The story Bernard’s Magic Shop disappears as a bricks-and-mortar retailer first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.