Former Toll Group chief executive turned property developer Paul Little is paying a speculated $30 million for a historic Melbourne CBD factory with a valuable residential redevelopment permit.
Through Little Property – one of various businesses the BRW Rich Lister has established since retiring from Toll in 2012 after 26 years – Mr Little is buying 9-27 Downie Street from Peter Iwaniuk, a prominent adult industry entrepreneur who holds several CBD properties including the Spearmint Rhino-occupied building at 14-20 King Street, which he bought for $7.7 million in late 2014.
Mr Little’s latest property occupies a 1187-square-metre plot near the south-west tip of the CBD, close to the Yarra River, Crown Casino and the Melbourne Aquarium.
The site is adjacent to the five-storey art nouveau former Sir Charles Hotham Hotel, which it was reported earlier this month education entrepreneur Shesh Ghale is buying for a rumoured $30 million.
The Victorian Heritage Council has registered the more than 100-year-old building on the site to former occupants including the R. Harper and Co. Rice Mill, and Langlands Iron Foundry. However, it is not protected by a heritage overlay.
Mr Iwaniuk listed 9-27 Downie Street for sale after obtaining a permit for the site to be replaced with a 30-level apartment tower containing 255 flats. Colliers International’s Trent Hobart, Bryce Cameron and Daniel Wolman, were the marketing agents.
Mr Little was unavailable to confirm future plans for the site – including whether a taller, or more dense apartment tower, would be proposed. Any upper levels of a skyscraper on this site would enjoy aspect views over Southbank and Albert Park Lake to Port Phillip Bay.
Last May, Mr Little sold an 8800-square-metre Fishermans Bend development site to a Shanghai developer for $60 million after paying $18.5 million for it in 2014, then obtaining a permit for a residential village with 940 flats in two landmark towers of 49 and 47 storeys.
In 2015 the developer bought the high-profile Malvern East factory which was for years home to ice creamery Dairy Bell (this site is now being replaced with a residential village, Hedgeley).
Also that year Mr Little retired after a three year stint as chairman with the Essendon Football Club, handpassing the responsibility to former federal Labor minister Lindsay Tanner.
One of Mr Little’s other companies is behind the recently unveiled sea ferry connecting two new Melbourne waterfront precincts – Werribee and Docklands.
The businessman made headlines in 2002 setting a then residential price record, paying about $16 million for Coonac – Toorak’s largest private land holding. Though his offer was reportedly not the highest, the vendor, ex-Spotless executive Brian Blythe, sold it to Mr Little because of an assurance the grounds would not be subdivided.
In fact Mr Little has extended the Coonac holding, buying a neighbouring property in recent years.