St Kilda’s Tolarno Hotel, a cultural icon of the Melbourne art scene, sells for $6m

St Kilda’s Tolarno Hotel, a cultural icon of the Melbourne art scene, sells for $6m

St Kilda's Tolarno Hotel

St Kilda’s Tolarno Hotel, a property that has been a cultural icon for the Melbourne arts scene since the 1960s, has sold to a local private investor for about $6 million.

The sale ends almost 30 years of ownership by James Fagan and Bernard Corser who placed the 37-room hotel on the market earlier this year via an expressions of interest campaign.

Tolarno Hotel, located on a 968sqm site at 42 Fitzroy Street, comprises a bar and restaurant that has been operated over the years by the likes of chefs Iain Hewitson and Guy Grossi, as well as a function room.

While the identity of the buyer has not been disclosed, the hotel sale was subject to an existing lease to a recognised hotel owner.

Founded by French immigrants Mirka and Georges Mara after they established a cafe in Exhibition Street a few years earlier, Tolarno Hotel has a rich history attached to the local art and culinary scene.

Mirka, who escaped Auschwitz as a young girl, was a visual artist who is heralded for her contribution to contemporary art in Australia.

After the couple moved to Australia, Mirka worked as a dressmaker to supplement her passion for art while Georges, who supported the French resistance during World War II, became an influential art dealer.

The couple established Tolarno Restaurant and Galleries on the Tolarno Hotel site in St Kilda in about 1967 and quickly made it a centre of Melbourne’s emerging cultural and culinary renaissance.

The hotel offers a unique blend of history and notoriety with the feature of valuable collections of original artworks, including murals by Mirka showcasing her evolution from the 1960s.

“Tolarno Hotel is immediately recognisable as a part of St Kilda’s history,” says CBRE’s Scott Callow who along with colleague Nathan Mufale brokered the deal on behalf of the vendors.

“I am pleased that the buyer of the hotel has history in the area and will continue its legacy as a Fitzroy St landmark.

“With a Commercial 1 zone designation, the property provides income from the current hotel tenant with potential for growth through the restaurant, bar, function rooms and plans for an additional level compromising nine hotel rooms.” 

Fagan and Corser acquired the Tolarno building in 1996 for $1.01 million.

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