Property developer GURNER has announced a $30 million redevelopment of Johnston Street’s The Spanish Club (Hogar Español) in a deal that will secure the popular club's future.
The deal will see the 789 sqm prime site transformed into a new Spanish bar and restaurant and clubhouse facilities at ground level – to be operated by The Spanish Club – with approximately 50 apartments occupying the five to six levels above.
The proposed design aesthetic will draw strongly from Spanish mansion architecture, capturing the transition between the heritage of The Spanish Club and the modern interpretation of the apartments above.
The move comes at a time when other immigrant social cubs around Australia have been either forced to adapt or close their doors, such as the Sydney Spanish Club which was forced to shut in 2013, and Melbourne’s Celtic Club which is currently on the market. Melbourne’s Swiss Club was forced to lease out its restaurant to new tenants in order to stay afloat and Canberra’s Italian Club has endured a battle with the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal in an effort to keep its embattled pokies venue alive.
Established in 1969 along Fitzroy’s Johnston Street, The Spanish Club was founded by Padre Eduardo Sanchez, the Chaplin to the Spanish, who persuaded the Spanish government to assist in purchasing the building to serve as a social centre.The club was originally called The Spanish Roman Catholic Mission, before later being renamed ‘Hogar Español’ meaning Spanish home.
The club quickly grew to become a home away from home for hundreds of Spanish immigrants settling in Australia in the late 50s and early 60s, and over the years it evolved to offer extensive social and education opportunities for the Spanish and wider community.
Faced with aging club facilities and a falling membership, The Spanish Club’s president Margarita Ros said the Committee decided to use an external third party (Charter Keck Cramer) to approach a number of developers in a competitive redevelopment tender last year, in a move that would secure the club’s future and enable it to survive.
“Unfortunately in recent years the club’s operations had become unsustainable due to falling membership numbers so we were faced with the prospect of either closing our doors – which would have a devastating impact on the Spanish and wider community – or thinking outside the box to work in partnership with a developer and create a new beginning for us,” she said.
“The Committee’s vision for the Club was for it to remain where it had been for over 45 years and for it to become one of the most well-known hotspots in Melbourne, where Spanish food, dancing and culture come to life, while still respecting its history.
“We wanted to ensure the significance of this site is preserved well into the future, so for this reason we decided to award the tender to GURNER as Tim and his team understand and respect what we want to achieve; they absolutely get it.
“The decision to re-develop was extremely difficult for us but we feel it was the right one. Now we are excited about the future and working with GURNER to save The Spanish Club and keep it in its ‘spiritual home’."GURNER founder and developer Tim Gurner said the deal would allow the historic club to continue to operate for the next 50-100 years, while modernising its facilities.
“The Spanish Club is a Fitzroy institution, what they’ve done for the area is invaluable and we want to ensure it continues to be a viable enterprise forever. Johnston Street today is a melting pot of different cultures and The Spanish Club has played an integral role in the identity of the local area; to lose all that rich heritage would be a devastating blow for the area’s cultural DNA," he said.
“As developers we have a responsibility to preserve the essence of our city’s heritage and culture so this is a great example of collaborating with social clubs in order to ensure their longevity."