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In Conversation With: Julian Gerner - Continental Hotel, Sorrento
Posted by Development Ready on Nov 20, 2019

DR:
Julian, thanks for sitting down with us – this project has been a whirlwind from the get-go, run us through how the opportunity originally came about and where you’re at with it now?

JG:
In 2013, I resigned as a Director of Melbourne Pub Group and was looking for a sea change. I have been holidaying in Portsea/Sorrento since I was a teenager and found a licensed site in Sorrento on the water. I fell in love with the location and the town. My wife and I relocated shortly after and have since started our family. The Continental Hotel opportunity presented itself in early 2015 when I heard whispers that it was coming on to the market. I had to have it. I commenced negotiations with an old mate, Scott Callow from CBRE, and secured an option to purchase, then set about acquiring further land and gaining planning and heritage approvals. I eventually settled in May 2017. It has been a roller coaster ever since and I have had to endure a series of unforeseen circumstances and commercial complexity. Right now, I have secured the site under my new company, The Ocean Amphitheatre Company (named after the original Sorrento development Company), and have acquired more land and committed to a redesign of the development along with a suite of new and pending planning applications.

DR:
What is the vision for the project and how has it changed from the original concept?

JG:
The vision is to create Australia’s Premier Hotel. The original project was a mix of retail and residential with a sensitive interface and a wrestle between components to take the best real estate. The site is now 100% commercial hotel and the aim is to build a world class hotel resort on the Mornington Peninsula.

DR:
What stage are you at with it now – what are the next steps?

JG:
I have been securing the legal position, redesigning and investing in an army of consultants to ensure the viability and commercials of the project. The Information Memorandum is complete and I am looking to close out funding pre-Christmas. Settlement is due in January.

DR:
How have you approached community opposition to the project?

JG:
This has been on my radar the whole time and is an evolving position. I continue to work closely with key stakeholders including Mornington Peninsula Shire, Heritage Victoria as well as community groups to keep people informed to the best of my ability. I have engaged Royce Communications to assist with a strategy to manage expectations and keep the community informed.

DR:
Tell us more about why you think this project in particular is so critical to the fabric of Sorrento and the broader Mornington Peninsula.

JG:
The Continental Hotel is the largest limestone building in the southern hemisphere and takes pride of place on Constitution Hill at the gateway to the township. It has the biggest retail frontage and will occupy 1/2 acres of land across 7 levels of retail. The economic impact to the town and the greater Mornington Peninsula is significant from the moment construction re-commences, to the first beer poured. Whilst it remains closed, the town seems closed. I promise it will more than make up for it once trading commences.

DR:
What sort of groups are you looking to partner with to get this project completed?

JG:
I am quite clear that I am seeking a single, like-minded investor with a long term investment horizon who wants to share in the land development as well as strong operational profits of the hotel.

DR:
What sort of legacy do you think this the Continental will leave once complete?

JG: 
The legacy is that of George Coppin’s who built the hotel in 1875 and ‘fathered’ Sorrento. I have commissioned a bronze statue of the man who will sit on the corner and welcome people to the Continental and Sorrento. I am merely a custodian who has fought hard to protect, preserve and celebrate this magnificent ‘Marvellous Melbourne’ Victorian icon for generations to come. For that, I am very proud. 



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