It’s the tiniest piece of commercial real estate that one of Melbourne’s leading agents has ever leased – and it’s likely also to be one of its most popular.
The seven-square-metre pit of an old, disused lift shaft has now had a window cut into it facing onto fashionable CBD laneway Equitable Place, off Little Collins Street, and is about to be tenanted by specialty hot chocolate makers Mörk Chocolate.
“I was at an inspection of another tenancy nearby and happened to walk past it and thought, ‘What’s this here?’ ” said James Lockwood, associate director of agency Fitzroys.
“A private investor owns the building, which has an Officeworks opening onto Elizabeth Street on the other side, and offices above, so I suggested an opening be cut and then we’d create a tenancy and value-add for the building. It’s something now that’s unique.”
The tiny space has been leased for three years at $17,000 a year gross – with three, three-year options – by Mörk Chocolate, which produces and serves artisan, ethically sourced hot chocolate, and has won a cult following at its base in North Melbourne.
“We are so excited about opening a satellite store here,” said coffee specialist Kiril Shaginov, who founded the company with his chocolatier wife Josephine.
“It was very frustrating not being able to do an inspection because of the second lockdown but, as soon as we were allowed to go in with a City of Melbourne food inspector to make sure everything would be all right, we knew it would be perfect for us.”
The mini-servery, newly supplied with power and water, is being fitted out, after the signing of the lease, and is expected to open at the start of December. It’ll offer hot chocolate and coffee, as well as Mörk’s trademark Swedish cinnamon scrolls and single-serve cakes, baked in the kitchens of their concept store.
They won a keenly fought contest for the space, between four other would-be tenants.
“Everyone seems to be looking for little spaces because it’s not too expensive then to set up in business, and this area gets a lot of foot traffic,” said Mr Lockwood. “This is the smallest space I’ve ever leased. It’s very unusual.
“We now have all sorts of groups looking for these kinds of unused spaces around Melbourne, especially with takeaways proving so popular during lockdown, and we’re keen to find others.”
Equitable Place, previously the home of the Equitable Life Assurance Society building that was demolished in 1959, has now become one of Melbourne’s liveliest laneways, with a range of eateries. Restaurants include the Brazilian B’Cos, Thai street food Dodee Paidang, and 11 Inch Pizza, and cafes Fugazza, Cafenatics, healthfood Seedling Cafe.
The potential of this extra space on the laneway had previously been overlooked by the owner of the building, with the businesses there using it as an unofficial bin room, and a place to dump unwanted materials. The 50-year-old lift shaft had been long ago replaced by a modern, core lift operating in the middle of the building with the shaft space above the ground re-absorbed into the main areas.
When the owner heard that Mörk Chocolate was interested in the lift pit, he was delighted. He knew their other premises well and now he’s likely to be queueing up to sample their wares on opening day.
“But I’ll be the first in that queue,” said Mr Lockwood. “I hadn’t been able to get over to North Melbourne because of lockdown but now I’ll be pretty excited to try it in this laneway.”
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