What’s happening with the Byron Woolies site?
The new construction at the south end of Woolworths Plaza site has gone dead and people are asking what’s happening. It seems there has been a hitch with a major underground power cable. Someone with the right size clipboard needed to come in there and sign off on it but it took forever. But it's all back on track apparently and heavy machinery is about to start again soon.
The old cinema will not be the same, even though they have left that section. It will be redone into a new 7 screen complex. The photo store, Byron Photo Magic, and the Italian restaurant, Cicchetti, will continue (you have to try their Tiramisu). Sophie Christou from Raine and Horne Byron Bay told me that leasing is going well. They are curating the mix of shops and wanting to have a good balance. There are still a few more shops left and the lease is anywhere between $550 – 1000 per sq metre Per Annum which is quite reasonable compared with Jonson/Lawson prime strip.
Rare Bit of Beachfront
The Wollongbar Motel on Shirley Street is up for sale. It is tipped to exceed $10 million. The 4542 square metre site at 17-21 Shirley Street Byron Bay comes with approval for 17 luxury apartments. (Apartment prices in Byron Bay have surged 31 per cent in the past 12 months, to a median of $770,000, according to Domain Group data.)
The site has 60 metres of direct beachfront access, is within 300 metres of Byron Bay’s retail and dining precinct, and is in walking distance of the Beach Hotel. It’s currently occupied by the 22-room Wollongbar Motel, which is run by a private operator, as well as a house next door.
“Byron is extremely hot at the moment and the owners are taking advantage of the existing market and its strength, as part of their exit strategy on the investment”, said selling agent Blake Goddard from JLL Brisbane. The owner, Mathew Hogg, said he is selling with a heavy heart but has decided to concentrate his concerns in Melbourne.
Beachie for sale
The iconic Byron Bay Beach Hotel is back on the market. This time asking between $75 – 80 million. The present owner, Melbourne businessman Max Twigg, who made his money in waste management, bought the hotel in mid-2007 from its developer, John Cornell, who co-wrote with Paul Hogan, and produced the global box office hit, Crocodile Dundee, in 1986.
Cornell built the hotel on the Byron Bay foreshore for about $9 million and it said to be our most lucrative entertainment venue. The hotel is leased to Melbourne pub industry identity John van Haandel until mid-2017 with a further two 10-year lease options and currently brings in annual income of around $4.2 million. Should it sell for $80 million, the yield would be 5.3 per cent. Mr Twigg, who is also a racecar driver, paid $44 million in June 2007, according to CoreLogic records.
The only other interesting site in Byron town is the Wicked Weasel bikini factory. Anyone interested in well-proportioned swimwear should have a look at their website. Wicked Weasel was owned by ex Midnight Oil bass player John Gifford and is named after his girl friend's nick name. Unfortunately the new owners will betaking the bikini factory manufacturing to Fiji - with the loss of a lot of local jobs. 156 Jonson Street is 3122 sqm and 90% of that land is under roof. This site will have premium frontage when the Butler Street bypass is completed. This building should be developed into a mixed use, retail and food.
McGrath, the relatively new and aggressive local agency, has some interesting things going on at head office. The McGrath agency set up in Byron Bay only a few short years ago as an offshoot of the Ballina Branch, but quickly took market share from the big three – First National, Hookers and Byron Property Sales. The national agency has a strong brand following the lead of the colourful and provocative principal John McGrath who has been known to do a bit of Trump-like reality TV spots.
Last year McGrath listed on the ASX, which is unusual for a real estate agency. The stock price is not doing well with all the trouble at HQ. Many of the top executives are fleeing the mother ship and opening a new agency to be called just that – “The Agency”. The stock price is down to 0.68 cents after floating at $2.10. Leader of the revolt is Matt Lahood who disagrees with Master John's premise that a good agency is all about the brand. The rebels disagree and affirm that property is sold by the individual agents and not the brand.