The landmark former home of the Sydney Eye Hospital for more than 70 years is up for grabs, and immediate interest in the property indicates it is certainly a sight for sore eyes.
The Victorian Italianate building in Woolloomooloo, in Sydney’s inner east, offers sweeping rooftop views over the harbour and 46 rooms spread over four storeys.
Built in about 1892, the building was designed by renowned architect Thomas Rowe for colonist Ebenezer Vickery, and remains a rare surviving example of a temperance hotel – a hotel in which no alcohol was served.
The Sydney Coffee Palace, as it was known, became the Hotel Marlborough in 1904 before going on to serve as the Sydney Eye Hospital from 1922 to 1996.
Under the current owners, it has welcomed travellers from far and wide, operating as the Elephant Backpackers since 2007.
With mixed-use zoning, the iconic triangular site at 50 Sir John Young Crescent is now being marketed as having endless repurposing opportunities.
“It may sell as a backpackers again, but it’s such a valuable building it may well be corporate headquarters for somebody,” said listing agent and Blacket Agency director Peter Blacket.
It could also be turned into residential apartments. “There’s a potential, subject to council, to build a penthouse on the roof and they could sell off the apartments underneath,” Mr Blacket said.
Citing the recent $23 million sale of Festival Hall in Melbourne to Hillsong Church, Mr Blacket said it could also appeal to religious groups. “It’s only early days yet,” he said. “You never know who comes out of the woodwork.”
Within a day of its listing, the agency had fielded interest from a party looking to redevelop it as a hotel, and another seeking a new company headquarters.
“We’ve been surprised at the reaction. It really has captured the public imagination,” Mr Blacket said.
Although listed by council as a building of interest for its exterior, the inside is not subject to heritage controls and has been altered over the years.
“You would have trouble changing the facade on the outside, but nobody would want to because that’s part of its charm,” he said.
The building’s ultimate use would determine the scale of interior renovation and refurbishment work needed.
“As a hotel, you’d need to do a lot with it,” Mr Blacket said. “The advantage that it has is two fire staircases at each end of the building and a lift, which again is a major cost to put in and it’s already there.”
Located at the intersection of Sir John Young Crescent and Crown Street, the 577-square-metre site is a short walk to the harbour, the Domain parklands, the CBD and top-class restaurants at the Finger Wharf in Woolloomooloo.
The property has already received interest from buyers at more than $8 million, but Mr Blacket said “it was too early to say” what it could sell for.