WHEN Hagop Didizian sat down to dinner at Luke Mangan's Salt Grill at the Hilton Surfers Paradise a few years ago, he wasn't surprised when the waitress apologised for the view across the road.
She was referring to The Mark, a then ageing, rundown building which happened to be a long-term asset of Hachma International, one of Didizian's family companies.
The London-based investor took the comment in his stride. He agreed the view was "horrible", but he also knew that it was about to change soon.
Didizian was in town laying plans for a major refurbishment of the retail space his family owned in the mixed-use building.
After four years of planning, Hachma this week unveiled a fresh new look for their 25-year Gold Coast investment after spending $17 million to create new retail spaces , a modern façade and to open direct access for the property to the beachfront through the adjacent Soul tower.
Didizian, a regular at the Hilton Surfers Paradise since it opened, says the Hilton development - kicked off by family friend Jim Raptis in 2008 - was the catalyst for Hachma's plans to finally refurbish the ageing property.
Didizian also reveals it was always his family's intention to bring the property back to life from the outset.
However, the 1989-90 property crash, and some opportunistic apartment owners who sought sky-high prices for their lots, put an end to any amalgamation plans they had. He says the original plan was to demolish the building and undertake a complete redevelopment of the site.
"But we never thought we would sit on it for such a long time," says Didizian.
The Didizian family, which has built a fortune in textiles since 1923 and has since extended its interests to include baby food manufacturing, restaurants and real estate, has been coming to the Gold Coast since 1981.
Patriarch Haig Didizian, now 85, spends about three months a year on the Gold Coast to get the London chill out of his bones, even though he can choose any destination in the world as his home away from home.
"We love it here," says Hagop Didizian. "I have been coming to the Gold Coast since I was 16 and now I bring my kids here."
Didizian says he can't say if The Mark will remain a long-term hold for the company now that it has been refurbished, but he says the first priority is to lease the remaining retail space.
He concedes the family is putting a great deal of thought into the tenant register.
"I don't know if it's the right thing to do after spending $17 million, but we are being very picky and we've said more 'no' than we have 'yes'," he says.
Hachma has dropped its asking retail leasing rates to between $1000 and $3000 per square metre in a bid to meet the market, which has been relatively buoyant in Surfers Paradise over the past year.
The renovation work, which was delayed by an apartment fire in 2012, integrates a dining, entertainment and retail precinct, professional office suites, with the residential apartments.
The upgrade has delivered a new façade along 90 meters of Orchid Avenue frontage and features a widened retail walkway, floor-to-ceiling glass and 40 tenancies with large shop fronts.
The refurbishment also delivers on a long-held civic vision to establish a pedestrian link between the Surfers Paradise beachfront and the riverfront via a retail walkway from Soul, to Hilton and across to Circle on Cavill.
Picture: Left to right - Chris, Haig and Hagop Didizian cutting the ribbon
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