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  • Writer's pictureJon Ruwolt

Toorak landmark 'Darnlee'

Highlighting the aged-care estate difficulties at present, 'Darnlee', the circa-1899 heritage-listed building at 33 Lansell Road Toorak, which had been converted to an aged-care residence in 1999 by BlueCross is now in vacant possession.

Its closure was announced in November 2022 and it was subsequently listed for sale with vacant possession, and is now destined to be converted again into a luxury family residence.

'Darnlee' is a heritage building at 33 Lansell Rd, Toorak, and is situated on approximately 3582sqm with a 40m frontage.

It is surrounded by some of Victoria's finest estates and is an excellent example of Melbourne’s Federation Queen Ann style of architecture.

Original features of the grand heritage listed Federation mansion include a conical tower, terracotta roof tiles, high decorative ceilings, a central domed skylight, and stunning original lead lighting and fireplaces throughout.

Queen Anne style mansion 'Darnlee' was built in 1895 and has been home to some of Victoria’s oldest and eminent families.

Once used by the Red Cross after World War 1, it was later converted into a Blue Cross aged-care residence in 1993.

Previous residents include Prisoner star Mary Ward, who passed away peacefully at the facility at 106 years old in 2021, and late AFL legend Lou Richards’ wife Edna.

The property sits on 3582sq m and features 47 bedrooms and bathrooms.

It was expected to change hands for more than $20 million, and RT Edgar Toorak’s agent Antoinette Nido said 'Darnlee' had attracted interest from both overseas and interstate buyers, and she received seven offers to buy the 3582sq m property before expressions of interest closed.

It is understood that the home has sold for an undisclosed amount between the $20m-$22m asking range.

Ms Nido said a local family purchased the site with plans to renovate but she did not know what their exact plans were for the “Toorak icon”.

“If someone wants to us it as a private home they will need to spent a lot of money to convert it,” Ms Nido said.

“I’m thinking’s it’s got to be north of $5m or more, because there is the large structure of the beautiful mansion at the front and the 47-bed nursing home as the back.

Ms Nido said the former nursing home had been “well preserved” by earlier owners including the Red Cross, the Teachers College and an occupational therapist.

The grand interiors are indeed gorgeous:

Darnlee Sales Campaign

During the sales campaign there were 55 registered buyers and inspections by 25 parties with a budget of $20Million - $30Million.

At the conclusion of the campaign there were 6 bidders with 6 offers submitted and 5 potential buyers missing out. The property was sold to a local buyer within the quoted $20-$22Million price range.

"This is an extraordinary result given that the property requires significant renovation to reinstate it to its former glory as a single luxury home." Antoinette continued, " The result is a reflection of the continued strength of the top end market."

"This is a significant result for a female agent, we are increasingly attracting the high-end listings with excellent results." Antoinette concluded.

Antoinette is the recipient of the REIV Outstanding Agent award for 2021 and 2022

BlueCross Closure

What was BlueCross’ first facility which opened 30 years ago, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Ingrid Harvey, said their decision to sell Darnlee was “not made lightly” and that interested buyers are likely to turn it into a residential property.

Despite a campaign to attract other retirement living providers, our ageing population require more complex care needs and BlueCross found navigating the complicated heritage layout of the property difficult to facilitate that care.

Its layout played a significant part in their “unfortunate” decision to sell – concluding Darnlee’s chapter as an aged care facility.

“Darnlee holds a very special place in the history of BlueCross as it was our first residence we opened in 1993,” Ms Harvey explained.

“The decision to sell the property was not made lightly. The limitations with [the facility’s] physical layout however, made it very difficult for us to meet the changing care needs of our residents.”

“To date, the intention of interested parties is to transform the property into a family home.”

One shocked family member of a current resident said the aged-care facility, which specifically catered to Alzheimer’s patients, was sitting on a “goldmine” at 33 Lansell Road, Toorak, the same street where chef Shannon Bennett recently sold his family home for more than $20 million.

“Everyone is hearing developers are due to strike, it’s devastating,” they said.

The decision to close Darnlee was made by aged-care providers BlueCross after a board meeting on November 21.

An email was sent to residents and their families and carers informing them of the Darnlee closure.

“The aged-care sector is facing a number of challenges at the moment, with major reforms underway as a result of the Aged Care Royal Commission, staffing difficulties and significant financial pressure for many providers of which BlueCross is no exception,” the email read.

“Darnlee is a beautiful building and holds a special place in the history of BlueCross as it was the first residence we opened in 1993, but its physical layout makes it very difficult for us to meet the changing care of our residents.

BlueCross CEO Ingrid Harvey said the decision to close Darnlee “was not made lightly” and BlueCross “has not engaged in any conversations regarding what will happen to the site.”

Sadly, another part of old Melbourne will be lost and with it what has become home to its vulnerable residents.

Heritage History and Description (A1 Heritage listing)

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