Over the last 18-months, new commercial real estate & property sales in Byron Bay have gone off the radar. First, the iconic Beach Hotel sold in February 2020. Then in May of this year, Justin Hemmes of Merivale – the commercial property group – bought the old Cheeky Monkey’s site on Jonson Street.
These commercial sales have come at a time when some in the industry believe Byron Bay is well on the way to becoming one of the Top 5 places to live in the world. Good news for those who already have a foot in the door. But many investors are asking how to get into commercial real estate in Byron Bay sooner rather than later.
Byron Bay’s Beach Hotel went up for sale in 2019 and sold to Moelis Australia Hotel Management for around $100 million in February 2020, just before the coronavirus outbreak led to lockdowns across the world. Media reports at the time suggested that CEO Dan Brady has an exciting vision for the hotel that will place the local community at the heart of its development strategy.
The Beach Hotel’s rise to fame began back in 1990 when John “Strop” Cornell, filmmaker and long-time manager of comedian Paul Hogan bought the pub for around $9 million. Positioned in a prime location on Byron Bay’s beachfront, the popularity of “the Beachie” has continued to grow since Cornell sold it in 2007 for about $64 million.
Byron Bay’s The Bower hit the headlines last year when it became the first Australian hotel to be negotiated and sold during the pandemic. The sale boosted confidence in leisure and boutique hotel commercial investments despite the uncertainties surrounding restrictions.
Local commercial investors Sein Lowry and Blake Eddington bought this former motel on Bangalow Road in 2015. Their New York-style makeover of the property in 2018 resulted in it being listed in Conde Nast’s Traveller Hot List 2019. Bought by the Gold Coast-based Guok family for somewhere in the region of $18 million, the commercial property sale attracted interest from investors across the US, Europe, and South-East Asia.
Since Tom and Emma Lane opened Byron Bay’s The Farm back in 2005, it has captured the hearts and minds of locals and visitors alike. Based on the concept of a working farm, The Farm’s mission has been to promote a philosophy of “Grow, Feed, Educate, and Give Back.”
The 80-acre property includes a market garden, florists Poppy & Fern, the famous Three Blue Ducks restaurant, popular bakery café, Bread Social, farm tours, workshops, and nursery education programmes.
Ed negotiated the commercial property sale, which reached a price of $16 million. The new proprietors, local business owners Fraser and Allyson Short, took the helm in November 2020, with part of the agreement being that they would continue The Farm’s legacy. And by all accounts, they’re doing just that.
Back in February of this year, Byron Bay Backpackers sold to Podia – a property development company – for $18.55 million. This is the first time this well-known commercial business has changed hands in 37-years. And it’s taken place at a time when interest in commercial real estate in Byron Bay has skyrocketed.
Byron Bay Backpackers was Australia’s first purpose-built backpackers’ accommodation. Situated right next door to the new Mercato shopping complex, plans for the site are yet to be disclosed. However, Podia has announced that they will be working with architects Richards & Spence to develop the site. And their plans will positively contribute to the identity of Byron Bay.
The popular pub, located at Byron Bay’s North Beach, was part of the original holding of Elements at Byron Resort. The new owners are looking to create a venue that will appeal to tourists and locals alike, focusing on sourcing locally, value for money, and developing strong community roots.
In May of this year, we learned that Justin Hemmes, CEO of the hospitality and entertainment corporation Merivale Group, has expanded his NSW portfolio by snapping up the old Cheeky Monkeys’ site on Jonson Street for a reported $13.5 million.
Apparently, Hemmes intends to open a large restaurant and bar on the site later this year. This is Merivale’s first investment in the Northern Rivers. And it suggests that more and more big names will be looking to buy in Byron Bay as growth in the region continues to boom.
Meanwhile, just over the road, the new Mercato shopping centre is said to have sold for a record-breaking $120 million.
This commercial property sale is one of Byron Bay’s most significant commercial deals to date. The new owners of Mercato are a joint venture, which includes the Mustaca family (owners of United Cinemas), the Pelligra family (prominent real estate developers) and fund managers Jason Meares of Option Group and Chakyl Camal of Panthera Group.
The deal includes the old Woolworths building and car park next door, which is already the subject of a development application. Plans for a mixed-use hotel/retail/function centre development are currently sitting with Byron Shire Council. What will happen next? We’ll have to wait and see.
After 30-years of ownership, local publican Tom Mooney has sold the Great Northern Hotel and neighbouring Lateen Lane Backpackers for around $80 million.
The Jonson Street commercial property features a large performance space, twenty hotel rooms, a restaurant, bars, and a drive-through bottle shop together with a separate 51-room backpackers next door.
Purchased by Scott Didier of Johns Lyng Group and Scott Emery of MoneyMe, this commercial sale is yet another substantial transaction in the heart of Byron Bay.
Didier’s daughter Casey, who lives locally, is all set to oversee the day-to-day operation. Didier also owns the luxury Beach Suites, which he purchased from John Cornell and Delvene Delaney in 2018.
Opinions on big names moving into town and the vast sums paid for these commercial properties are many and varied. But what they do suggest is that there seems to be no stopping the increasing desirability of Byron Bay.
And this could be just the beginning.