The former St Josephs Cowper Homes campus.
The former St Josephs Cowper Homes campus.

Unique historic property just needs a visionary

IN 20 YEARS in commercial real estate, Angus McKimm has only seen a property like his latest offering once.

"Usually I have a pretty good idea of what is appropriate for a site but this one is a whole new type of real estate," the McKimms Real Estate director said.

"It's one we might only come across once in a decade and that makes it a little out of the box.

"We don't know what is going to go in there."

The site in question is the former St Joseph's Cowper Homes Campus, a space rich in history, namely as a children's home, convent and out-of-home care facility.

The huge 1.7ha site boasts just over 1800sq m of commercial space and includes two ­administrative buildings, two commercial kitchens, four six-bedroom living quarters and several garages.

The former St Josephs Cowper Homes campus.
The former St Josephs Cowper Homes campus.

With all that space, Mr McKimm said all it would take was someone with the right ­vision and it had the potential to become something special - even if he couldn't pin down what that special vision looked like.

"It could be some sort of education college, a wedding/function centre, accommodation for the aged or community services, or a health service centre," he said.

"Maybe even the site for a new industry that hasn't taken off in the Clarence before."

Mr McKimm said the owners, the Catholic Church, wanted to hold on to the site so its historic links could be maintained in a new way.

While not ruling anything out, offers from charitable, medical or community groups would be treated favourably and there was also the possibility of leasing out parts of the diverse site.

Even though the process of finding a tenant could take time, Mr McKimm likened it to the old brewery site around the corner.

"I don't think anyone thought at the time (it closed) that the brewery would become a great place to have a multi-tenancy industrial park," he said.

"And that is what it is now.

"A new take on this site might really surprise us."

The former St Josephs Cowper Homes campus.
The former St Josephs Cowper Homes campus.

There is also a personal connection for Mr McKimm as not only did his mother work at the site, he would pick up one particular kid for weekly indoor cricket matches.

And it's possible the project means a little more to the agent than the usual space, in more ways than one.

"It has been an important part of the community when it was St Josephs homes," he said.

"A lot of people in Grafton still have links to the place and I still get stopped in street by people who grew up there.

"It just needs someone with some vision."