Crown jewel on the market

Expressions of interest to purchase one of Melbourne’s most prestigious and history rich buildings closed at the end of October. It may soon change hands for only the fourth time in its long history. 

The former Cromwell House at 139 Collins St was built in 1886 for Dr. James George Beaney – an eccentric character from Melbourne’s past. 

According to the Australian Dictionary of Biography, Dr Beaney – who was nicknamed “Diamond Jim” by the media – had hair “upswept to either side of his head ‘like a pair of horns’”.

“His flamboyant dressing, embellished with diamond studs, diamond and ruby rings and a bejewelled gold watch with diamond pendant, made him an admirable subject for caricature. A lover of claret and champagne, he offered generous hospitality to his students and friends; he sometimes shared a jeroboam of champagne with his assistants after operating sessions,” the biography entry reads.

The building would later become home to the Alexandra Club, a private club for women, for more than 60 years.

Currently owned by the wealthy, property-owning family of the late John Kearney, the building’s star tenant is Louis Vuitton, which has a 15-year lease expiring in 2026.

Colliers International has described the site as Melbourne CBD’s “crown jewel”. The outcome of its run on the market may be viewed by many as a signifier of Melbourne’s economic strength coming out of lockdown.

Matt Stagg, one of the agents from Colliers International managing the sale, told the Age they were expecting “elite global retail investors that ‘collect’ trophy assets in major cities around the world” to submit bids.

It is expected to sell for more than $50 million.

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