The press hall and canopy roof of the Western Drive facility is the same distance in length as the Rialto building is high. The five-level building has a large underground area agents say can be reconfigured as a multi-level car park.
With this potential, they speculate a retail buyer such as Bunnings, Coles, Costco, DFO, Harvey Norman or Woolworths may be prepared to pay more than an industrial user, like Toll. A DFO-type retailer looking for a prominent site might also be interested. It’s estimated more than 60,000 commuters drive past the site everyday.
Other potential uses for the site according to agents include a ‘Jeff’s Shed’ style convention centre or a hotel.
The company is under the spotlight since a white-knight offer by entrepreneur Gina Rinehart who has acquired nearly 19 per cent of the fledgling company in six months. The businesswoman has owned an interest in another media company, Channel Ten, for more than a year.
Rival News Limited, having built a $340 million plant on a 5.8 hectare Port Melbourne block it bought in 1988, is unlikely to consider the Tullamarine site to purchase or lease.
News announced plans to relocate Leader staff from the eastern suburb of Blackburn to a new office it will share with Herald Sun reporters. This decision may result in News renewing its lease at 60 City Road, Southbank, or committing to another office building. About four years ago News was seeking new city office digs but decided to stay put at Southbank.
Announcing plans to cut one fifth of its workforce, Fairfax may sub-let part of its near-new 655 Collins Street headquarters – taking advantage of any premium in office rents since 2009 when its lease commenced.
Both Fairfax and News have been active property sellers in recent years. In 2007 Fairfax made $66.1 million selling its 1.5 hectare Spencer Street facility to residential developers. In 2009 it sold the former 3AW headquarters in Bank Street, South Melbourne for about $4.5 million, again to an apartment builder.
News, meanwhile, reaped about $12 million in 2010 selling its 8767 square metre former Leader headquarters in Blackburn to neighbouring prestige car dealership Lexus.
Leader owner-occupies a neighbouring Blackburn office agents speculate would be worth about $10 million if sold today.