Ryman downsizes Mount Eliza retirement village plan

Inside the mansion, when it operated as a school.

Ryman Healthcare has substantially downsized the scale of a proposed aged care and retirement living community at Mount Eliza’s Moondah estate.

The Moondah gatehouse recently underwent an $800,000 restoration.

The new plan – worth $85 million – is for 35 assisted living units, 104 apartments and 82 aged care beds.

It would again retain and restore the historic mansion, which is of local heritage significance (only the property’s gatehouse has State heritage protection).

The New Zealand listed owner entered the local market 11 years ago.

It has only invested in Victoria holding five established assets, five proposed ones, including on sites recently acquired at Essendon and Mulgrave, and two under construction; counting its pipeline it will have tipped in $2.2 billion here.

Ryman is also the only major operator in Australia to adopt a model whereby aged care and retirement living exists at all its villages.

Aged care shortage

The revised Mt Eliza application comes a year since the Mornington Peninsula Shire rejected a $200m proposal with 48 assisted living units and 181 apartments.

Ryman then applied to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal which last month supported the site’s use as aged care, but not the size.

Just over a fifth of residents in the municipality are aged over 65.

According to a Statement of Evidence submitted to the tribunal, in the Mornington Peninsula area, there are 38 sites holding 3672 operational, Commonwealth funded residential aged care allocations.

There is a current undersupply of 195 residential aged care allocations, it added.

Without any further construction, this would increase to 787 places within five years, 1395 within a decade and 1512 by 2032.

The revised plan

Ryman said its new application responds directly to VCAT’s guidance.

“VCAT handed down a ruling last month supporting the use of the site for retirement living and aged care, pointing to the clear community benefit Ryman’s proposal would provide,” the operator’s development manager, David Laing, said.

“The tribunal declined to issue a permit, citing concerns about the scale of some components…but gave clear guidance on what would be an appropriate outcome,” he added (story continues below).

Elsewhere in the suburb, Hengyi late last year applied to replace a 3.4 hectare waterfront block, 33 Jackson Road, with a $160m aged care facility containing 104 dwellings across eight buildings.

Saving Moondah

At 70-80 Kunyung Rd, Moondah was developed by former Australian Mutual Provident Society chairman and Melbourne Benevolent Society president, businessman James Grice.

The 8.9ha estate initially included a croquet green, golf course, polo field and tennis court; the main mansion contains 42 rooms.

Between 1947-1957 the property was held by Sir Reginald Ansett who ran it as a 5-star hotel.

It then sold to the Australian Administrative Staff College and operated as Mt Eliza Business School, which merged with the University of Melbourne in 2004.

The school constructed numerous outbuildings during its six decades of occupation.

Ryman acquired the asset in 2016.

Its proposal would repurpose the historic home as the facility’s centrepiece – with shared amenities including a beauty salon, café, cinema, gymnasium, library and lounge.

Jane Cook, Mr Grice’s great-granddaughter – who was married at Moondah and last went through in 2019 – supports the home restoration and retirement village plan.

“In a perfect world, the property would be purchased by council or an individual but who has that sort of money to restore and maintain it?” she said.

“It has to be a business, to be shared with the community, for all to enjoy,” she added, saying the university “maintained it faultlessly”.

Since taking ownership, Ryman said the dwelling has been targeted by vandals and squatters, resulting in the installation of motion sensor cameras and regular security checks.

All ground floor doors and windows have been boarded up too.

The group recently spent $800,000 to restore the gatehouse.

Moondah (centre, left) and Sir Reg Ansett’s ex-Gunyong estate (right).

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Marc Pallisco

A former property analyst and print journalist, Marc is the publisher of realestatesource.com.au.