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Julian Gerner is flipping the historic Continental Hotel in Sorrento with redevelopment permit

November 10, 2017

The Continental Hotel in Sorrento is up for sale after being bought by entrepreneur Julian Gerner last year. Photo: Marina Oliphant

Restaurateur and pub owner Julian Gerner is flipping Sorrento’s historic Continental Hotel after obtaining a contentious redevelopment permit.

The former Melburnian, who moved to the Mornington Peninsula in 2013 and bought the limestone pub known as “the Conti” mid-last year – but never re-opened it – can expect about $20 million, sources say, from an outright sale of the hotel, which is now on a 4482-square-metre site.

Alternatively, Mr Gerner is considering teaming with an investor to proceed with the permitted $22 million refurbishment – which would see land and airspace replaced with an apartment building, 38-suite hotel, wellness centre, yoga deck and lap pool.

On the basis of either of the above happening, Mr Gerner, who quit as a director of Melbourne Pub Group to make the Sorrento sea-change, would consider leasing part of a re-opened hospitality venue from a new owner.

Julian Gerner at one of his former Melbourne pubs. Photo: Stephen Lightfoot Julian Gerner at one of his former Melbourne pubs. Photo: Stephen Lightfoot

Sotheby’s Rob Curtain with CBRE’s Scott Callow, Scott Orchard and Chao Zhang, are marketing the opportunity.

The distinctive and National Trust-listed Continental Hotel, developed by actor-turned-politician George Coppin in 1875, is believed to be the only four-storey limestone structure in the southern hemisphere.

For 25 years until Mr Gerner bought it, the pub was controlled by owner-operators the DiPietro family, whose farewell party, reportedly held the week before handing over the keys, might have been the venues last big hoorah – because Mr Gerner had purchased it with development plans and never traded from it.

The Z-shaped block is only one block back from the water. Photo: Supplied The z-shaped site is only one block back from the water. Photo: Supplied

Shortly after agreeing to outlay a speculated $13 million-plus for the 3579-square-metre hotel parcel, Mr Gerner purchased an adjoining plot of public land – an 18-bay car park – from the Mornington Peninsula Shire Council, for $1.98 million, a deal which was opposed by many in the local community.

After creating a Z-shaped supersite, Mr Gerner put forward an ambitious proposal which would see a seven-storey structure built next to the historic hotel.

Despite an attempt by council to limit the height of the tallest proposed new building, Mr Gerner’s plan to build around the historic pub was upheld by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal early this year.

The entrepreneur told commercialrealestate.com.au that with the high-quality proposal now able to go ahead “my part is done for a while”. He is now seeking an investor able to manage the financial side of the major redevelopment (buying the site, or co-funding the project). Construction could be underway by next year.

Mr Gerner and his wife, who now have two kids, plan to stay on as Sorrento residents following any Conti sale and continue operating nearby waterfront businesses.

During his Melbourne career, Mr Gerner was responsible for refurbished venues including the Albert Park, Middle Park and Newmarket hotels.

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