Owner’s DIY plan for ‘Conti’ project

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AFTER the failure of two financial deals the owner of Sorrento’s Continental Hotel Julian Gerner says he will redevelop the 1875 limestone icon on his own.

Mr Gerner late last week said he had “secured the future” of the Sorrento landmark by retaining ownership “after a period of commercial complexity and a series of unforeseen circumstances”.

His decision follows the collapse in May of then-partners the Stellar Property Group and the failing of a sale to LBA Capital.

“I have negotiated an agreement to deliver on the vision to restore, renovate, protect and preserve the 1875 ‘Marvellous Melbourne’ hotel for the Sorrento community, all Victorians, interstate and overseas tourists for generations to come,” Mr Gerner said in a statement issued by Royce Communications on Thursday headed “Julian Gerner secures Hotel Continental future”.

Mr Gerner says his new ownership entity, The Ocean Amphitheatre Company, honours the “father of Sorrento” George Coppin, who built the Continental.

To secure funding for what is now a $100 million project, Mr Gerner said he was finalising a “comprehensive and compelling investment information memorandum” and was “confident that [the] required funding will be secured imminently”.

Despite putting the pub back on the market in 2017, after “coming to the conclusion that [its redevelopment] is too big to handle alone”, Mr Gerner is confident this time around the project is now “more advanced; more resolved and a much more valuable proposition”.

He said Heritage Victoria and the Mornington Peninsula Shire are “supportive” of his plans.

“Required maintenance work is ongoing and an ‘army’ of consultants are working tirelessly, targeting a recommencement of construction post-Australia Day, 2020,” Mr Gerner said.

He said the development now included a “world class hotel resort as well as car parking, commercial office and a staff accommodation facility at a projected cost of $100 million”.

Previously tagged at $80 million, he said the extra cost had come about through the acquisition of an adjacent property in 12 Riley Lane with a “series of pending and new planning applications to be consolidated on the site of more than 1.5 acres on Constitution Hill”.

The launching of “new planning applications” may sound alarm bells with council and the Nepean Conservation Group, which opposed the height of a proposed seven-storey apartment complex at the rear and deplored the council’s handling of the sale of public land for a car park for $1.8 million. (“Hotel’s VCAT victory” The News 27/2/17).

Mr Gerner said last week the excavation of 18.5 metres at the rear of the site would be extended to allow for more car parking and a wellness centre.

He said the project would create 200 permanent jobs and generate a “major economic impact on the town and the greater Mornington Peninsula”.

First published in the Southern Peninsula News – 22 October 2019

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