So prestigious and exclusive that it rarely bothers drawing attention to itself, the Victoriana-intact residential wedge of South Parkville, a 2.5-kilometre stroll west of Melbourne’s CBD and next to the 181-hectare Royal Park, has just thrown up one of the most unusual properties it has offered for sale for a generation.
The agents go one step further in claiming the 1889 Parkville Post Office (postcode 3052) as “a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity”, which is not too much of a stretch considering all that the property has going for it.
The corner-sited and heritage-registered polychrome brick building is the grandest of less than a handful of commercial buildings in an almost country town-quiet neighbourhood of single and double-level terraces, many of which retain former stables on bluestone back lanes.
It last changed hands 23 years ago and is being offered to the market at a starter price of $3.6 million-$3.9 million.
What this exceptional holding – which still has a post office retail outlet on the ground floor – could sell for when it goes under that hammer on Saturday, February 22, is a big unknown.
For as Woodards Carlton agent Glenn Bartlett says, “there is nothing (locally) that we can directly compare it to.
“Anything like this on substantial land, which at 510 square metres is 2.5 times the size of an average Parkville terrace, is of such extreme rarity that only the market can determine its value.”
Within four days of hitting the internet, and in what was the first of a series of by-appointment-only showings, four groups were checking the interiors of the post office and the post master’s private digs which range upstairs and down through wide corridors and rooms with 3.6-metre-plus ceilings.
Two attributes of the building are immediately apparent. It houses a credibly tidy bunch of young tenants in the five upstairs bedrooms, some with marble fireplaces. And there is an unusual amount of natural light in all the rooms because it is freestanding and has a large back yard facing north and west.
And while there is some peeling paint high up on a few walls, a kitchen that last had a makeover perhaps in the ’60s, and only one bathroom, not a crack is visible in the fabric of a pretty fantastic 130-year-old structure that sits on bluestone foundations.
“Majestic, isn’t it?” marvels Woodards agent Claudio Zanelli. “It has the proportions and the look that you just don’t get any more”.
This is an accurate observation of a public service-built amenity that came out of the land boom of the late 1880s when historian Geoffrey Blainey reckons “the (Victorian) Government ploughed more money into urban infrastructure” than ever before.
In 1888, the year that builder J.G. McLean was finessing the Gothic suggestions and the elaborate brick facade, there was, according to Blainey, an unprecedented construction boom.
“Land prices boomed, and the largest team of builders ever assembled in one place in Australia built thousands of villas and terraces, hundreds of mansions, countless shops and scores of churches, hotels and halls.”
Like a residential bank, Parkville Post Office was a two-in-one deal, a business and family residence.
In a city where the quietly moneyed are now quietly moving out of their high-rise penthouses to take up and restore Victorian mansions that have been boarding houses or backpacker hostels for decades, what Zanelli says “was always intended as a family home” and a commercial premises, has incredible potential to become a unique, palazzo-scale home.
“With a renovation, it would be incredible”, he says. But while the post office lessee is open to staying on at a current annual rental of almost $31,000, there is scope for so many other applications, especially with Melbourne University and one of the premier hospital and medical research precincts in Australia a couple of blocks down the Fitzgibbon Street.
One of the early tyre kickers at the initial invitation-only open for inspection was a doctor looking for potential consulting and surgery rooms. “There are so many multiples of uses”, he said.
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