The resurgence of Toorak Village
A grandeur addition to Toorak Village is about to commence trading. Photo: Supplied

The resurgence of Toorak Village

In living memory there hasn’t been a period when residential Toorak hasn’t been the pre-eminent residential destination for a major chunk of Melbourne’s moneyed class. 

Its house median is $5 million, a figure dragged ever skyward by the top addresses whose values are such that if you have to ask the price, you’ve given away that you can’t afford them.

But the commercial blocks along Toorak Road, the “Village” between Wallace Avenue and Grange Road, have experienced moribund phases when daggy shops, tired cafes and shaded arcades through to carparks have made the place look very down at heel. As we speak, about two dozen shops are empty.

But this bit of Toorak is waking from its latest torpor with the imminent opening of St Germain, a swank new development of retail and offices, and the recent sale – for $67 million – of a back street car dealership destined to become a mixed-use block of retail, hospitality and a class of apartments defined in “Trak” terminology as “super-premium residential”.

Scott Hawthorne – one of the CBRE team that brokered the 2022 deal on the 3600 square metre Mercedes Benz holding in Carters Avenue – says that the positive transformation of commercial Toorak has been fermenting for a few years and has been stimulated by a demographic change and the decentralisation of workplaces away from the CBD to the city fringes.

Like South Melbourne and Cremorne (a sub-sector of Richmond), he says Toorak has become very attractive to developers because “people want to be close to the CBD but not necessarily face the gridlock of the city commute”.

The St Germain development is about to open at the heart of Toorak Village. Photo: CBRE

He calls the $250 million St Germain building by Vicland’s Bill McNee, “a serious development” that’s generated “a lot of tenant demand”. The office tower that advertises itself as “Melbourne’s most exclusive”, has only a couple of commercial suites left for lease. It also has a communal rooftop that has views back to the city. 

To be anchored by a new Coles, the street-front shops beneath a sequence of grand order arches will include a “wellbeing experience” and high-end restaurants such as the Italian eatery Cecconi’s. 

Hawthorne concurs that St Germain perfectly slots into the expectation of “grandeur” that the suburb’s name evokes. Stonnington Council is amplifying that idea with a soon-to-commence re-presentation of the streetscaping that will see all sorts of new street furniture and footpaths “with brass trim”.

The new Toorak Village office tower has a communal rooftop. Photo: Supplied

Luke McKie one of the directors of the Orchard Piper group that bought the Carters Avenue holding has said that “Toorak is crossing into a new era”. The plan for the site is to put $400 million into it and involve one of Australia’s most internationally-awarded architectural firms, Kerry Hill Architecture.

Local cafe operators who report that their existing clientele “is predominantly older” have yet to detect the demographic shift that Hawthorne says has silver-haired [Toorak] mansion owners looking to downsize into “safe, spacious ultra luxury apartments close to where they have lived”. 

Yet the baristas do joke there’s a ready local market for “dowager penthouses in the $4-$5 million range”. More soberly, they say they’d very much welcome an influx of fresh faces, be they office workers or the younger families who are trading up to toffy Toorak housing. “It’ll add another layer of clientele to our business”.

Meanwhile, Orchard Piper has submitted to council plans for yet another six storey Toorak Road mixed use development – 10 luxury three bedroom apartments, more offices and shops – on a more contained but more prominent site on the corner of Mathoura Road and Toorak Road that was bought in 2021 for $28 million. 

As Scott Hawthorne says “there’s a fair bit happening in Toorak”.