“I’m not leaving”
Last December tenants of the Nicholas Building began receiving letters delivering news of 50 per cent rent rises and more, giving them just a week to respond.
On December 18, eighth-floor gallerist Stephen McGlaughlin posted his own letter on Facebook, calling for sponsors.
“A person supported me who had a show here 28 years ago. She loved her show. We have a lot of goodwill,” he said.
Members of this close-knit community are still dealing with the blow but just two have chosen to leave from McGlaughlin’s eighth-floor community.
Some are saying that agents have been “brutal” in their approach.
But, according to McGlaughlin, director of an eponymous gallery, the increase just brings the rents up to commercial levels of $450 a square metre.
“The letters were sent out by someone new to the company,” he said. “She’s been made the scapegoat.”
The drama of the Nicholas Building’s fight for survival has had wide coverage in the press ever since it was put on the market in October 2021.
A sale never went through and the rent increases, according to McClaughlin, seem big but follow a long period of being “dramatically low” and waived totally during the lockdown.
He said that his gallery had faced closure but thanks to the response to the Facebook campaign he had enough to pay for the increase and a full program of exhibitions is planned.
“I’m not leaving,” he said, reassuring a large group of artists who regularly exhibit in his room.
Business as usual was the catch cry of a community that had blossomed during a period of “extremely good custodianship of the building,” he said.
The owners have kept up maintenance. The electrical and safety aspects “are fine and they’re experienced at it”. And they haven’t tarted up the corridors, which attract a certain kind of client.
One eighth-floor tenant has looked at equivalent space in other buildings but couldn’t cope with the “men in grey slacks and pale blue shirts”.
The Nicholas Building has an eclectic mix. On the eighth-floor there is an opera singer, two galleries, zine collective, curator, gem cutters, industrial designer, record shop, electrical contractors, philosopher, jeweler, artist and a sound studio, and that’s just the one floor.
Before the Victorian Election there was a call for the government to buy the building to save it for the community but the majority of those who spoke to CBD News weren’t in favour of being bailed out.
A rent rise for many is better than filling in applications for funding. Some businesses on the lower floors have already expanded into rooms recently vacated and have their own plans in place.
The witchcraft business on the first floor declined to comment on its expansion. “It ruins the mystery for our clients,” a spokeswoman said. •
Caption: Gallerist Stephen McGlaughlin loves the old-world mystery of the Nicholas Building.