WHETHER it was ‘Speedy’ picking up empty pots in the public bar, Matthew Brady barking orders at staff, a black-tie New Years’ Eve party up in the swanky Penguin Bar or a glimpse of the late, great Frank Sedgman sauntering through his hotel…
Everyone has their own memories of the golden days at the old Isle of Wight Hotel on Phillip Island.
And if the new owners of the derelict site, which has remained a Cowes’ eyesore for the past decade, have their way, the prominent location could be set to return to its former glory.
Soon after expressions of interest closed last Wednesday, January 20, during the latest attempt to release the 8624 sqm, prominently-located site to motivated investors, agents Greg Price of Alex Scott and Staff and John Castran of Castran Real Estate declared that a sale had been made.
“We’ve signed a lengthy confidentiality agreement but because I know there will be intense interest in the site again, I can say the property has been sold in one parcel,” Mr Price said this week.
“We were delighted with the level of interest this historic site created from a variety of potential buyers; locally in Victoria but also interstate and overseas.
“It had been offered in individual packages and also as a whole but in the end the vendors chose to sell it to an individual investor as a whole which I think is a great outcome for the region.”
However while Mr Price would not be drawn on the sale price or the identity of the buyer, the Phillip Island Advertiser quoted a spokesman for the buyers, Ed Farquharson, who said the consortium “planned to spend the next few months exploring all opportunities presented”.
“We want to ensure we take the time to explore every potential use for the site – hospitality, health and wellbeing, premium hotel and high-end residential uses. The development may end up being a blend of many or all of these uses,” he is quoted by the Advertiser as saying.
The site is zoned for hospitality and accommodation.
The Advertiser said Mr Farquharson’s development company Moda had partnered with Salta Capital and hotelier Mazen Tabet to develop the site.
Mr Price said market conditions on Phillip Island in particular and along Bass Coast in general, could hardly be better for a new development of the kind suggested for the IOW site with newly-listed residential properties lasting little more than a few days in the present climate.
Subject to Bass Coast Shire Council approval and encouragement there’s believed to be a very strong chance we’ll see development at the site within the next few years.
It’s been almost 11 years since fire ripped through the iconic hotel in the early hours of Saturday, May 22, 2010
Gutted by fire in 2010
The ABC’s report on the fire reads as follows: “Police are investigating what triggered a security alarm just minutes before a fire was discovered at the historic Isle of Wight Hotel in the town of Cowes on Phillip Island early this morning.
“Police say workers locked up the premises at 2:00am and the fire alarm went off about 10 minutes later.
“Over 100 fighters responded to the blaze but could not save the 140-year-old hotel (built circa 1925, licensed 1870).
“The hotel, which was earmarked for redevelopment, was gutted and the damage bill is expected to reach $10 million.
“Country Fire Authority investigators and the arson squad will examine the site to determine what caused the fire.
“Detective Rob Brown says the alarm went off, prompting the manager to return and discover an office alight.
“What’s caused that alarm to trip is unclear at this stage, but the security monitoring company contacted the manager who returned to the hotel,” he said.
“Upon returning to the hotel he’s entered the reception area and seen smoke coming from inside the building.
“He’s then gone into a room, an office area, and seen flames about four foot high.”
The hotel was due to be demolished to make way for a $55 million redevelopment into a 5-star hotel complex that ultimately didn’t go ahead.
The historic hotel famously played host to Fred Astair, Ava Gardner and Gregory Peck during their filming of the movie On the Beach in 1958.
It held a significant stock of historic, one-off local photos and memorabilia that were destroyed in the fire.
The vacant site, facing the Cowes Pier, has been fenced off and attempts made to camouflage its ugly appearance while the busy visitor activity at one of the state’s key tourist destinations goes on around it.
Hopefully now, the location can return to its former position of leadership in the region’s hospitality sector, generating activity and employment, attracting a new brand of celebrities and creating its own slice of Island history.