FANDOM


Wal1

Side of Waltons building on Wickham Street: "Air Conditioned Waltons" (May 2011, sign digitally enhanced). A photo from BCC at http://goo.gl/AU72B shows this sign has hardly changed since the 1950s.

IMG 9226

The Brunswick Street frontage of the Waltons building, October 2011

W

The Wickham Street frontage of the Waltons Building, October 2011

Welcome to the Waltons WikiEdit

This wiki concerns the past, present and future of the Waltons building (formerly Overells Building) in Fortitude Valley, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

Fortitude Valley has seen an enormous change in appeal over the last 50 years mirrored in urban areas throughout the western world. From being highly desirable as both a retail and residential area between the 1890s and the 1950s, the area struggled with the rise of the more popular suburban shopping and residential areas. The area lost both shoppers and residents in huge numbers until it became synonymous with undesirable inner city vice in the 1970s. Properties were largely not maintained by uninterested owners, eventually offloaded and cheaply bought. In the 1980s, the Brisbane City Council began a series of revitalisation programs to 'clean up' the area which continues today. Fortitude Valley is now perceived as a 'character' area and is more popular as a residential and retail area.

A university lecturer and two nurses who are sisters, the Lees, built a property empire in Brisbane, Ipswich and Toowoomba starting in the mid-1960s. Their current residential portfolio amounts to more than 35 properties. A company associated with the family, Mount Cathay, acquired the Waltons building in 1984. It has been largely empty since 1988 and has fallen into disrepair. (Another associated company also acquired a large building in Mount Gravatt in 1982 and left it largely vacant for years before selling it in 1999.)

In contrast, the Brisbane City Council Fortitude Valley Local Plan states: "Landmarks and vistas of local and city wide significance must be maintained and enhanced. Significant landmarks include, but are not limited to ... McWhirters, Waltons and TC Beirne buildings". The draft Fortitude Valley Neighbourhood Plan states: "Development must ... maintain the visual signficance of the McWhirter's, Walton's and Judith Wright Centre buildings within the streetscape". The Wickham Street frontage and the adjoining lane are heritage listed. So what has happened?

Only public sources have been used in the research for this wiki, including:

  • Newstext searches for early Courier Mail and City News articles (1984 onwards)
  • State Library of Queensland: Historical White Pages, telephone directories, electoral roll in microfiche form, and databases for newer Courier Mail and City News articles
  • CITEC Confirm for Queensland property, title, lease, easement and ASIC company searches.

AddressesEdit

240 Brunswick Street, Fortitude Valley ("I Life Factory", "Voodoo Lulu", "A and J Trading"). The Unimproved land value was $6,200,000 as at 30 June 2010 (valuation date 1 October 2009); site value $5,500,000 (valuation date 1 October 2010). 240brunswickstreet.com redirects to the home page of the associated real estate agent, Glenn Gracie Real Estate.

Leasej

A diagram of the part of the land leased by Mount Cathay from QR until 2070. The area is below reduced level 11.04m AHD and beside the bottom of Overells Lane.

238 Brunswick Street, Fortitude Valley

234 Brunswick Street, Fortitude Valley and 52 Alfred Street, Fortitude Valley. Title searches show that since 10 October 1990, Mount Cathay has had a lease on a 598 sq m part of the land referred to in Lot 40, Survey Plan 196964, owned by Queensland Rail Limited, for a period of 87 years; that is 1 March 1983 to 28 February 2070. This area is used only for "a means of access to and from and for the temporary parking of vehicles associated with the operations of the business adjoining the demised premises".

250 Wickham Street, Fortitude Valley ("Overell Building")

248 Wickham Street, Fortitude Valley (formerly "Hyundai Gift Centre", now at 200 Wickham St)

EasementEdit

In 1984, a Memorandum of Grant of Easement was drawn up between Overells (or its successors, called "the Grantor") and the State Government Insurance Office (or its successors, called "the Grantee"). This granted a set of rights to the Grantee over the easement which is now the walkway between the Valley Metro and McWhirters. It provided for the closure of the easement "during such times, if any, as the proprietors for the time being of the Servient Tenement and the Dominant Tenement shall agree in writing that the Easement shall be closed". It was also "agreed that the Grantor shall have the right, on six (6) months' notice in writing to the Grantee, to reconstruct the said walls at its own expense and to provide alternative support for the Easement."

Easement

The 1984 Memorandum of Grant of Easement for the walkway between McWhirters and the Valley Metro

Timeline (pre Mount Cathay period)Edit

  • 1883. Overells established by William James Overell (1854 - 1917) at 700 Ann Street, the corner of Ann and Warner Streets, afterwards occupied by Wildman Bros Plumbers and BCC Stores.
  • 1893. 8 February. Flooding: Brisbane Courier: "Overell and Co. and Jack and McKenzie's have suffered extensive losses..."
  • 1899. 6 July. Brisbane Courier: "... in Brunswick-street, and near the junction with Wickham-street, large two-story brick premises are being erected for Overell and Co., drapers. The premises will have three entrances, and will be an imposing block, and a decided addition to that portion of the city. The frontage is 99ft. The Bank of New South Wales is placing bank premises on the adjoining land, and at the corner of the streets; there will be two stories, the lower being used for banking, and the upper for residence purposes."
  • 1900. 28 July. Overells opens at its current location in Wickham St and Brunswick St. The Queenslander: "One of the most important landmarks in connection with the present progress of Fortitude Valley is unquestionably the handsome premises recently erected in Brunswick-street, close to the corner of Wickham-street ... An exceedingly handsome building has just been completed; indeed for the purpose required it is quite equal to anything in the city of Brisbane. ... The frontage and magnitude of the promises exceeds anything built here for very many years. The building is of brick, and has the facade to Brunswick-street finished in cement and divided into three bays of 33ft. each ... Although the premises present two stories only to Brunswick-street, the building is really of three stories, as the drop in the land enabled a lofty and well-lighted basement to be secured, which is approached on the level from the yard and rear roadway."
    Overells Drapery Shop in Fortitude Valley ca. 1900

    Overells in 1900 (State Library of Queensland).

  • 1904. 10 February. A fire extensively damages the store. Brisbane Courier, 11 February: "The handsome and valuable pile of buildings comprising three stories and a basement and with a frontage of over 100ft to Brunswick street, were doomed to destruction. At a quarter before 9 o'clock the premises of Messrs. Overell and Sons had stood forth proudly as one of the foremost of the large drapery establishments which during the last couple of years have earned for the Valley the reputation of being the principal shopping centre of Brisbane. Two hours later it was a heap of smoking ashes, standing in the midst of other establishments all more or less damaged."
    Brunswick Street Fortitude Valley after the disastrous fire in Overells department store 1904

    Overells after the 1904 fire (State Library of Queensland).

  • 1904. 1 December. Brisbane Courier: "The new premises now completed for Messrs W. J. Overell and Sons, instead of those destroyed by fire in the beginning of the year, presented a very busy appearance yesterday morning when visited by a "Courier" representative. Three large entrances give access from the street frontage…. The show windows are nine in number, and are fitted with handsome nickel fittings, and lined with mirrors. When filled with their first display of goods they will form a very attractive feature in this portion of the Valley. A handsome arched awning covers the footpaths, large arc lights illuminating the whole length of the front."
  • 1906. 3 October. Brisbane Courier: Overell's Chairman: "We have now commenced the erection of our new premises in Wickham street connecting at the rear with our Brunswick-street premises which will give us an arcade from the two streets named and when completed we will have premises if not the largest at least equal to any in the city of Brisbane in the drapery trade, and where we will have better facilities for coping with our increasing trade."
  • 1907. 28 February. Brisbane Courier: "W. J. Overell & Sons, Limited, The Valley Drapers, announce for Friday and following days "A Gigantic Sale" to celebrate the opening of their new premises in Wickham-Street."
  • 1907. According to the Brisbane City Council Heritage Register for the former Overell Building the current store is constructed -- referring to the Wickham Street building. The date was previously "c1911" until adjusted on 6 October 2011 based on research performed for this wiki. Also see the Brisbane City Council Heritage Register for Overells Lane.
  • 1923. 24 September. Brisbane Courier: "The present policy is one of extension, and within the last few months adjoining property has been purchased at a very heavy cost with the idea of extending the company's premises. The addition to the business was found absolutely necessary because of the growing trade. It is also contemplated shortly to alter the windows in Wickham street and to install a very handsome island window scheme in that street. ... If its present policy and intentions materialise, one should see a big development and extension to the premises and business in the near future."
  • 1924. 6 March. Brisbane Courier: "Valley Business Freeholds for Sale. Mr. B. F. Canniffe, conveyancer and auctioneer, will sell by auction. at 11 o'clock this morning, the valuable business freeholds known as Bragg's buildings, in the heart of the Valley, having a frontage of 35ft. to Ann-street, and 54ft. to Warner-street."
Article20659533-3-005

Overells, from Brisbane Courier, 24 September 1923

  • 1927. 14 September. Brisbane Courier: "The rapid expansion of the business of Overells' Ltd., Wickham-street, Valley, has necessitated increasing the height of the firm's drapery emporium to five stories above the basement. ... Special lavatories for customers also have been constructed over that portion known as "Bragg's Building," which was purchased by the firm a few years ago."
  • 1928. 30 August. Brisbane Courier: "Overells' Ltd... have completed the purchase of the adjoining premises in Brunswick-street, occupied by Whincup and Co.... with its frontage of 66ft.... its continuous level frontage of 198ft. in one street in addition to the frontage of 54ft. in Wickham-street, will have few equals in the Commonwealth. Their present premises of five floors and a basement, together with the two floors and basement of the recently purchased building, will give the firm a floor space of 144,000 square feet [ie 13,400 square metres]."
  • 1953. 5 November. Courier-Mail: John H. Dawson: "Waltons planned to open branches in every big centre in Queensland. The company would first open four Queensland stores —at 240 Brunswick Street, Valley ..."
  • 1953. 17 November. Courier-Mail: "Waltons require experienced furniture section head ... Reply to ... 240 Brunswick Street, Valley." However, ads for Amalgamated Retailers positions at 240 Brunswick Street appear as late as 31 December 1954 which is the last day for the Courier-Mail in the Trove archive.
  • 1954. 2 November. Courier-Mail: "Amalgamated Retailers Ltd. yesterday became Waltons Ltd. as shareholders sanctioned the second change of name in three years."
  • 1956. 1 April. Overells bought by Waltons - according to McWhirters Page and delisted companies. Also from delisted companies it can be seen that at various times from 1926 to 1989, the company was known as Waltons Bond, Waltons-Sears, Cash Orders (Amalgamated), Amalgamated Retailers, and Bond Corporation Holdings. The original name of Waltons was Cash Orders (Amalgamated) which was founded in 1926.
  • 1973. 8 March. Whiskey Au Go Go nightclub fire in Fortitude Valley, referred to by Mount Cathay in 2009 complaint below.
  • 1976. 13 May. The Brisbane City Council writes to Waltons and approves their request to close Overell's Lane to vehicular traffic. Mount Cathay refers to this letter in 2009 complaint below.

Timeline (Mount Cathay period, 1983 to 2010)Edit

IMG 0348-1-

Brunswick Street facade, 21 November 2011.

  • 1983. 17 October. CNS Holdings Pty Ltd and JNL Management Pty Ltd are established.
  • 1983. 1 November. Mount Cathay Pty Ltd is established.
  • 1984. 14 February. Overells Limited grants a set of rights to SGIO concerning the walkway between what is now the Valley Metro and McWhirters. See the above "Memorandum of Grant of Easement" photo.
  • 1984. 28 March. Mount Cathay leases the buildings to Waltons Stores for three years starting at $330,000 / year increasing by 5% a year. Edmund Thomas Traynor (director) and Keith Robert Stewart (secretary) sign for Waltons and Joyce Lee (director) and Nancy Lee (secretary) sign for Mount Cathay.
  • 1984. 6 April. Courier Mail: "THE Waltons-Bond property at the Brunswick and Wickham Street corner, Fortitude Valley, has been sold for $2.65 million.The property, with about 13,000 square metres of retail, office and storage space, was sold by Amalgamated Securities Limited and Overells Limited, on a leaseback deal to Waltons Stores (Interstate) Limited. Agent Tom Chan and Associates would not disclose the identity of the buyer."
  • 1987. 28 March. The lease is renewed for two years at $377,900 / year increasing by 5% a year. Edmund Thomas Traynor and John William Long sign for Waltons and Nancy Lee (attorney) signs for Mount Cathay.
  • 1987. May. Waltons becomes Norman Ross.
  • 1987. 21 August. Comino solicitors write to Dawson Waldron that the rent hasn't been paid.
  • 1987. 8 October. Comino: "there is an alleged Legionaires (sic) Disease problem with the air conditioning plant".
  • 1988. March. Norman Ross has its closing down sale. The lease is assigned from Waltons to Venture.
  • 1988. 20 April. Comino: "Your client clearly is obliged to maintain the premises and to keep them free and in repair." (!)
  • 1988. 13 May and 16 May. Comino solicitors writes to Blake Dawson Waldron: "Many areas of the building are untidy ... The building is being allowed to fall into disrepair ... flooding has been caused in the basement area" (!!)
  • 1988. 3 June. Builder Ron Neal does an inspection for Mount Cathay to report on the condition of the building.
  • 1988. 14 June. Mount Cathay issues a writ against Waltons, Norman Ross, and Venture Stores seeking "An injunction restraining the defendants ... from damaging demolishing removing or otherwise interfering with the fixtures and fittings and other property of the Plaintiff": "the premises are untidy and unclean ... the activities in the premises cannot by any stretch of the imagination be described as "a retail department store of a comparable department store operating in the metropolitan area of Brisbane" ... under the terms of the lease, your client is to maintain the interior and exterior of the premises in good and substantial repair and condition" (!!!)
  • 1988. 20 June. Judgment issued: "Defendants are restrained from damaging, demolishing, removing or otherwise interfering with the fixtures and fittings and other property of the Plaintiff."
  • 1989. 24 November. Courier Mail, letter to the editor from Jeanette Smith: "It makes me sick to see what the Waltons store has been reduced to when I remember how lovely it was a few years ago. How on earth were so many fifth-grade, little businesses allowed to operate in one area? A mish-mash of junk surrounded by dirty, dung-colored buildings. I felt dirty just being there."
  • 1991. 10 July. Green Left: "Valley of indecision: Household names — McWhirters, Overells, T.C. Beirne — have been displaced by decentralised establishments, the landmark buildings remaining amid smaller commercial premises, many of them run-down and emptying one after the other. ... With the long view characteristic of Chinese business, Hong Kong interests own a great deal of real estate in the area."
  • 1991. 26 July. Mount Valley Management Pty Ltd and Mount Valley Pty Ltd are established.
  • 1991. 10 November. Courier Mail: "A 34-storey residential building over the Fortitude Valley railway station in Brisbane has been proposed to bring residents back to the area. ...Mr Keith McDonnell, a director and spokesman for the company proposing the development, Mount Valley Management Pty Ltd, said the development was proposed for the former Waltons building site. …The residental tower will cater for a maximum of 500 people. He said such a density was the only way to ensure viability of the project. The retail arcades connect to Brunswick and Wickham Streets and the Valley Centre Plaza and provide access to the Brunswick Street Railway. ... Ald Soorley said yesterday the building did not have City Council approval and in its existing form fell outside the guidelines of the Town Plan. We are interested in facilitating development of the Valley which is both sensible for the city and profitable for the developer, he said."
  • 1991. 17 November. Courier Mail: "THE Fortitude Valley trader association responsible for the marketing and management of the Valley and Chinatown malls has put its weight behind a proposed 34-storey residential and retail development for the area. Mount Valley Management Ltd outlined its plan for the $40m development on the old Waltons building site last week. In a letter to the company, Valley Business Association president Mr Richard Zammit said the association was happy to see some firm progress in the area of development of disused sites in the Valley region. Mr Zammit said the proposed project had the ability to be the major catalyst for other development in the area. "
  • 1993. 8 August. Courier Mail: "There is also speculation that a major residential building over the Fortitude Valley railway station proposed for the former Waltons site is being revised after initial rejection by the council. The project initially knocked back was a $40 million 34-storey building with a residential tower component. A revised development proposal for the site is expected to be put forward in the near future."
  • 1997. 4 July. Courier Mail: "TWO of Fortitude Valley's landmark properties, the former Waltons department store site and the Sunday Sun premises, are on the market for redevelopment in what has become a burgeoning urban renewal precinct. Vendor Mt Cathay Pty Ltd is offering the property freehold under two purchase scenarios." See 1997 Courier Mail article.
  • 1998. Mount Cathay starts complaining about safety and maintenance issues on the easement (see 2009 complaint below).
  • 1998. 16 July. Northern News. E Bell of New Farm writes: "WITH the new developments in New Farm, Teneriffe and Fortitude Valley, I can't help but wonder where people will go for their weekly groceries. The boutique supermarkets are great for night-time emergencies or unexpected guest supplies, milk or bread, but a week's shop is out of the question ($$$). Why don't the developers look at the old Waltons area around the station, Brunswick St and all the empty buildings along Wickham St. One of these areas would be suitable for Woolies, Target, Kmart or Franklins. The number of empty premises, filled with discount outlets could be better utilised to provide much-needed services for existing and future residents. Bring the Valley back to its former glory of a one-stop shopping centre."
  • 2000. 14 January. Courier-Mail. "Construction is expected to begin on apartments within the McWhirters building next month and long-term residential planning may even include the Walton 's Building on the corner of St Paul's Terrace and Brunswick Street. [sic]"
  • 2005. 3 October. Mount Cathay writes to James Heading of the Brisbane City Council (complaints concerning Overell's Lane, see below).
  • 2006. 5 March. Sunday Mail: "Drug dealing, fights, drunkenness . . . it's our 100m of misery. DRUG pushers ply their trade in the open as shoppers brush by, arguments break out as deals go bad, drunks slump unconscious in doorways -- all within metres of a manned police beat."
  • 2006. 16 March. City News: "A commercial landlord has come under fire for allowing a Fortitude Valley strip to descend into a haven for drug-dealers and other anti-social behaviour." See 2006 City News Article.
  • 2007. Word on the street: World graffiti legend "Jade" from "DTS" or "Dtees" paints large graffiti piece on roof, creating one of the most iconic graffiti pieces in Brisbane. The piece remains today in 2015 as a symbol of Brisbane's underground graffiti scene; whilst collaborating with historic Brisbane architecture.
  • 2008. 6 June. Courier-Mail. Local councillor David Hinchliffe says some property owners are ``land-banking, hoping their values will increase once the [Valley neighbourhood] plan is approved. ``There are quite a number of buildings that are in a depressed state simply because the owners are sitting on them, he says. The old Walton's department store, which stretches from Brunswick Street to Wickham Terrace, near the station, is an eyesore, contrary to the magnificent brick building it once was. The Valley Chamber of Commerce has lobbied the owners for years to redevelop the building but they only do basic maintenance and despite offers they refuse to sell.
  • 2008. 24 June. Skyscrapercity.com: "another part of the building they can fix up is the line of 2 dollars shop [sic] and the westpac building. aparently [sic] a cranky old asian man owns it and he dosnt [sic] want to do jack."
  • 2008. 18 July. Mount Cathay writes to Jane Prentice of the Brisbane City Council (complaints concerning Overell's Lane, see below).
  • 2009. 5 November. An anonymous Mount Cathay Pty Ltd "liason" [sic] officer complains to the BCC (search for development application A002228766, "Submission - No Name/Address"): "Grave concerns supported by photographic evidence were raised on public health and safety in OVERELL LANE caused by the occupiers of 256 Wickham Street. ... There were numerous correspondence and evidence [sic] to show Overell Lane was severely damaged by construction work in 2006 carried out by the proprietor of 256 Wickham Street. The property of Mount Cathay Pty Ltd. was unlawfully trespassed [sic] and damaged during the said work. The ongoing issues of safety and maintenance on Easement no. H243890 since 1998 with the Grantee, the Body Corporate of Happy Valley BUP 102240, as shown by many correspondence. [sic]"
  • 2010. 29 July. City News: Neglected buildings an eyesore. "COUNCILLOR David Hinchliffe (Central) has called for action on the once-grand Walton's department store in Fortitude Valley which has fallen into disrepair. Cr Hinchliffe said legislation was needed to bring buildings up to an acceptable standard when they deteriorated."
  • 2010. 8 August. The Independent: David Hinchliffe: “Of course, much more needs to be done. This award is a pat on the back for heading in the right direction, but we’ve got a lot further to go, particularly with some of the pathetic and irresponsible owners who are letting the rest of the Valley down.” Cr Hinchliffe singled out the “disgraceful” Walton’s department store in Brunswick Street West. He decried the fact that there was no legislation with teeth that would empower the council to force the owners to either put up or cover up “this Valley eye-sore”. Cr Hinchliffe is keen for public pressure and the developmental community, plus bipartisan support from both sides of the council chamber, to create strong legislation that would force buildings such as this to an acceptable standard. “This would then attract more locals and visitors to the Fortitude Valley area where they would be surrounded by buildings and streetscapes that shows a well-cared and secure environment,” he said.
  • 2010. 29 September. Courier-Mail: Douglas Wood of Boondall wrote: "When I was a young bloke, I often went to the Valley which was a major shopping centre. The shops were clean and well presented. I am disgusted with the Valley as it is now. It is filthy, smelly, the shops look dirty and rundown and in need of fresh paint. There are ripped and torn posters hanging everywhere. I don't know who is responsible but someone needs to get their act together and restore the Valley to what it once was."
  • 2010. 9 October. Courier-Mail: Margaret Lane of Curra wrote: "Walking towards Fortitude Valley station, past the old Waltons store, is sickening. It is sad to see it go this way. We too will not be going there again. It is not inviting at all."

Timeline (Mount Cathay period, 2011)Edit

  • 2011. 30 March. Independent: "A long-term and respected local business identity (James Delahunty) wants Fortitude Valley rid of the eyesore Waltons building – either cleaned up or preferably redeveloped – and support for his campaign is spreading." See Independent article
  • 2011. 12 May. 4BC: Fortitude Valley struggling. Peter Dick and Mary Collier interview David Hinchliffe about how the area can improve. "DH: There is so much heritage in those buildings, Council is saying you've got to keep those buildings, and some of the owners are sitting on those buildings hoping that one day there'll be another council that says you can demolish them all."
  • 2011. 12 May. Brisbanetimes.com.au publishes an article on how to fix the valley mall but many comments call for cleaning the Waltons building. David Hinchliffe of the city council responds: "Council does NOT have the power to make the owner of the Walton's building renovate or re-develop. Council's powers in relation to the outward appearance of buildings are limited to buildings that front the malls. I've suggested that we seek powers from the State to allow Council to have such a power outside the malls." John Fraser of Kedron responds: "The BCC has more than enough powers to issue Show Cause Notices on the Waltons building."
  • 2011. 14 June. City News publishes an article: BRISBANE'S Fortitude Valley is descending into filth. "Cr [David] Hinchliffe cited the arcade from the Valley Metro train station and across the air-bridge to McWhirters as a private property area in a constant state of filth and disrepair. "Broken glass, bodily fluids, litter, rotting foods, you name it, it's there," he said."
  • 2011. 4 July. The Independent publishes an article about the correspondence between Jack Moc and Greg Scroope. Mr Scroope said he had met 10 days earlier with property owner Jack Moc who “owns the building that holds Cafe One and who has the administrative and management rights for the area between the air bridge linking McWhirter’s through to the Valley Metro Shopping Centre”. David Hinchliffe talks about "asking council for a ruling on whether council does have the power to make property owners in the Valley clean up filthy premises."
  • 2011. 7 July. David Hinchliffe speaks to The Independent again: "There are some property owners who are simply holding the Valley back. If properties look unloved as many properties in the Valley do, then it sends the wrong message to everyone else in that community."
  • 2011. 20 July. The Independent addresses Jack Moc on the front page asking him to "Come Clean" about the state of the walkway from the Valley Metro to Wickham Street. The editor offers him space in the 3 August issue to respond.
  • 2011. 7 September. The Courier-Mail publishes a story about Grace Grace , the Member for Brisbane Central, describing some buildings of Fortitude Valley as "derelict and filthy". Pictures of the Waltons building feature prominently in both the online and paper versions. The Hansard transcript is available on the Queensland Parliament website. "The Brisbane City Council is taking no action on derelict and filthy buildings and public spaces, giving visitors to the Valley a very bad first impression, and as we know first impressions often last." Ruby Velour writes an open letter to the BCC about Fortitude Valley: "[One is] greeted with the disgusting mess that is the walkway between McWhirters building and the Metro food court. I have literally never seen it clean. There are inches of dust and grime coating old rubbish and fast food containers. I once saw a pie that has been smeared into the wall last about a month before it was cleaned (or most likely, fell off on its own accord). Considering Fortitude Valley station is the 3rd busiest in Queensland, this is appalling. ... On one side of [Brunswick] street you have dank old cheap shops that you can smell from a mile off and haven’t been updated since the building used to be a Walton’s, facing $1 peepshows, strip joints, nightclubs and the dingy Chopstix Arcade."
  • 2011. 8 September. Barbara May Hosking of Mt Gravatt writes to the Courier-Mail : "The once popular Waltons department store is the worst example of neglect. I am passionately against such neglect and feel that legal action should be taken against the council and owners/developers for allowing eyesores to continue."
  • 2011. 10 September. Richard Bean of Toowong writes to the Courier-Mail : "THE former Waltons building in Fortitude Valley has been largely empty since 1988. This building and surrounding areas certainly live up to the description of derelict and filthy."
  • 2011. 14 September. The Independent publishes a front page story: "Pressure now mounting on Valley eyesores" . David Hinchliffe suggests an open letter to Premier Anna Bligh and Lord Mayor Graham Quirk "asking that both sides send their top decision-makers and legal brains down to the Valley to meet on site with business and property owners and decide once and for all who has the power and who has the will to use it!"
  • 2011. 28 September. The Independent: "Local council candidate Paul Crowther has called on the City Council to stop the "buck passing" and get on with cleaning up the Valley. He says his call follows advice received from the State Director-General of Local Government. In a letter from Jack Noye, Queensland Government Director General of Local Government and Planning to Colin Jensen CEO of Brisbane City Council, Mr Jensen says the BCC has the power to clean up the Valley under the Building Act 1975, where the council reasonably believes structures are dilapidated or filthy. ... Mr Crowther points to the abandoned, filthy and dilapidated Waltons building as a prime candidate for the Lord Mayor to immediately issue enforcement notices and direct the building owner to undertake cleaning and maintenance work." .... Robin Maini, Winning Appliances Queensland: "It is refreshing to see the urgent call to action to refurbish dilapidated buildings. ... Winning Appliances and Bathrooms ... have transformed [the whole block between Alfred and St Paul's Terrace]. ... I am personally happy to assist in the effort to get the message across to owners and businesses alike if you are forming a committee regarding the issue."
  • 2011. 29 September. City News: "THE State Government has suggested Brisbane City Council write a new local law to force substandard Fortitude Valley landlords to clean up their act. Lord Mayor Graham Quirk said while he was open to the idea, State Government processes to approve a local law usually took over a year. Cr Quirk said the former Waltons site on Brunswick St was a concern but contact with the owners, who lived overseas, was difficult. In a statement to City News, Cr Quirk said he was meeting with Waltons: ‘‘I am determined to pull every lever available to me to solve this problem but we can’t just wash our hands of the issue for 12 months while we wait for the State to approve a local law.’’"
  • 2011. 5 October. Lord Mayor declares war on rundown buildings in Fortitude Valley. "Lord Mayor Graham Quirk yesterday named the rundown Waltons Store as one of city's biggest problems as Fortitude Valley tries to recapture its strengths. "There has been a 20-year fight going on with a couple of the landowners in Fortitude Valley and I am about to resurrect those fights," he said." The article uses information from this wiki and Brisbane Times has approached Nancy Lee, the sole director of Mount Cathay Pty Ltd, for comment. Brisbane City Council inspectors visited the building on 4 and 5 October.
  • 2011. 5 October. 4BC: Valley, one big mess? Peter Dick and Mary Collier (Fortitude Valley resident) interview Fortitude Valley resident and Queensland MP Grace Grace about the Valley. "PD: The Lord Mayor has named the run-down Waltons store as one of the city's biggest problems. ... Why have we got such prime inner city real estate just sitting there empty, there's arcades there, nobody's occupied the stores ... GG: The escalators in Wickham Street haven't worked for some time - City Council should step in. ... The State Government spent $32 million on a new train station there at Fortitude Valley and yet you go out of the Metro plaza and you come over the overpass and you enter into a quite dilapidated terrible area which is privately owned and needs upgrading ... we've had correspondence with the owner... MC (interjecting): Who does own it can I just ask? GG: Look, uh, it's a businesspeople (sic), I won't give the name on the radio I don't think it's fair to them, but it is privately owned.". Afterward: "MC: We talk about bipartisanship but there was a lot of attacking of the Council going on there. ... PD: It's Brisbane's biggest embarrassment. Quarter past seven ..." Direct link to MP3 of interview.
  • 2011. 18 October. Brisbane City Council minutes of 4359 meeting: Councillor David McLachlan, Chair of the Field Services Committee: "Madam Chairman, the Council has done what it can to bring Overells Lane up to scratch and the job of maintaining it up to an acceptable standard is now much easier. The challenge we face in a location like this is to get other property owners to do the right thing as well. Overells Lane runs down into a car park for QR staff located at the back of the Fortitude Valley railway station. It's far from a salubrious location and as it's not Council property, Council staff are not able to undertake the cleanup necessary to bring it up to an acceptable standard. But all that can be done to encourage the surrounding property owners to do better to attend to the amenity issues of their properties is being done."
  • 2011. 20 October. Courier-Mail: City Hall acts on Valley rot. THE owners of a Fortitude Valley building at the centre of a political stoush have been issued with a list of 65 defects City Hall wants fixed. The list was forwarded to the owners of the Walton's building, at the corner of Brunswick and Wickham streets, by Brisbane City Council and includes everything from dry rot, mould and graffiti to rust and broken windows. Labor councillors, however, say Lord Mayor Graham Quirk is simply acting because their lord mayoral candidate Ray Smith had promised to step in if elected at the March election. "They have no alternative in the face of public outrage about the decay that has occurred in these buildings and the manifest neglect," Central Ward's Cr David Hinchliffe said. Cr Quirk said the issue had been going on for 20 years and it was Cr Hinchliffe who had been slow to act.
  • 2011. 21 October. Brisbane Times. "Run down but not out. Two offers have been made to purchase a dilapidated Fortitude Valley building, amid calls to convert the historic structure into a live music venue. Real estate agent Glen Gracie [sic, should be Glenn Gracie] said he had received several offers from clients who wanted to buy the property, which the building's owners, Mount Cathay Pty Ltd, were considering. ... Brisbane City Council this week sent the property owners, Mount Cathay Pty Ltd, a list of 65 urgent repairs it wants to see undertaken. Those repairs included new paint, minor water leak repairs, and the replacement of dry rot and broken pipes. Lord Mayor Graham Quirk said he would seek state government approval for a local law to obtain the power to force the owners to fix the building. "I've acted and council officers have prepared a list of building defects that the owners need to fix to ensure it meets a minimum standard of cleanliness that I consider acceptable," he said.
  • 2011. 25 October. The Independent: Lord Mayor Graham Quirk is confident that “steely” discussions with the owners of some of Fortitude Valley’s eyesore buildings will bear fruit soon. But he is warning that he’ll force action – with fresh legislation if need be – to make recalcitrant owners bring their buildings up to a suitable standard – both inside and out.
  • 2011. 28 October. Mount Cathay publishes an open letter with some really tortured syntax - pictured here. It refers to another 2002 open letter to Jim Soorley.
    Openletter

    Mount Cathay asks for State Government intervention and an enquiry

  • 2011. 16 November. The Independent: "Council mute on Walton's deadline. Brisbane City Council has sidestepped questions on how long the owners of the eyesore Walton's building in Fortitude Valley will be given to rectify 65 defects outlined in a show-cause notice issued late last month - or what action council intends to take if such a deadline passes without substantial remedial work being undertaken." Editorial: " ... the two main risks to the health and safety of people venturing into the precinct - the shoddy public passageway through the Walton's building from Valley Metro towards Wickham Street, and the often-stalled escalators down to that street, are not covered by the show-cause notice."
  • 2011. 21-23 November. The Brunswick Street facade is repainted.
  • 2011. 1 December. City News: "Run-down buildings under fire. Fortitude Valley's worst eyesores are on the Lord Mayor's hit list, with the run-down Waltons building the first to be targeted. The heritage building's facade has been repainted but Brisbane City Council officers have identified another 55 defects needing repair."
  • 2011. 5 December. Village News: "One down. Fifty-five to go. A COAT of paint on the upper facade of the decaying Waltons Building on Brunswick Street, Fortitude Valley, marks the first step in a campaign by Brisbane’s Lord Mayor Graham Quirk to having the property cleaned up. LNP candidate for the council’s Central Ward, Vicki Howard, said the cream paint job signalled the breaking of a deadlock between the council and the owner, Mount Cathay – which had gone on for 20 years."
  • 2011. 6 December. Brisbane City Council minutes of 4366 meeting: Lord Mayor Graham Quirk: "Waltons in the Valley, there has been some considerable painting work been undertaken down there. That’s the start of that program; more to be done. I look forward to seeing those ongoing improvements, Waltons in the Valley, along with some other improvements that will occur down there, I am sure, in the weeks ahead."
  • 2011. 8 December. City News: "Waltons action at last. Fortitude Valley business owners have praised Brisbane City Council’s intervention in the longrunning Waltons building saga. Last week City News reported the facade of the vacant building had been repainted after Brisbane City Council officers found 55 defects in the derelict Brunswick St site." Quotes follow from Graham Quirk, Geoff Wilson, James Delahunty, Robin Maini and Charlie Apostolos.
  • 2011. 12 December. The walkway through the Waltons building between the Valley Metro and McWhirters is closed.
  • 2011. 13 December (issue of 23-30 November). The Independent: "Quirk welcomes Walton's work. Lord Mayor Graham Quirk has welcomed the start of remedial work on the Walton's building in Fortitude Valley several weeks after City Council issued its owners with a demand calling on 65 problem areas to be rectified. Cr Quirk in a media release said the work came after he had "intervened to end the 20-year issue" and followed his "stern talks with representatives for the old Walton's building ... to have the decaying property cleaned up"."
  • 2011. 14 December. A twitter conversation between Grace Grace and Philip De Bella: "GG: Ridiculous closing the Valley old Walton's walkthrough during Christmas, can't this wait for quiet time? Bad for business, bad for patrons! BCC handling of old Walton's walkway plagued with delay, blame shifting, inaction and bad timing. BCC always had ability to act but why now?" "PD: now now grace you know why now!! Finally we have people prepared to stand up take action! people that don't want to play politics but fix the issues!!" Another tweet from SteveJWR suggests television news coverage (no link available).
  • 2011. 14 December. Brisbane Times: "Brisbane City Council will soon have the ability to force property owners to maintain and repair old buildings. Lord Mayor Graham Quirk last night said his decision to draft a local law to give Brisbane the ability to control property owners was prompted by a 20-year tussle to protect the old Walton's Building in Fortitude Valley. ... A spokesman for Cr Quirk said Mount Cathay had done a good job since being asked to repair the property. Recently they angered local traders by closing off access through a walkway through to the Fortitude Valley train station from Wickham Street. Last night, local councillor David Hinchliffe praised the council's decision to go ahead and write its own protection as a local law."
  • 2011. 14 December. Terri Begley on 612 ABC interviews Graham Quirk about the proposed new laws, which are predicted to be in effect within 18 months.
  • 2011. 15 December. City News: "Laws give council power over amenity. Brisbane City Council will soon have the power to force building owners to maintain rundown properties. ... On Monday the Mount Cathay-owned walkway connecting McWhirters shopping complex and the station was closed for maintenance, without notice to adjoining businesses." The article discusses the impact the closure is having on nearby businesses which rely on walk-through traffic.
  • 2011. 15 December. City News: "Closed walkway hits valley business. Fortitude Valley businesses fear they will be forced to shut their doors after a public walkway was closed without notice on Monday. ALP council candidate (Central) Paul Crowther said about 80 business people attended a public meeting this morning calling on council to reopen the Mount Cathay-owned walkway which connects McWhirters shopping complex and the Fortitude Valley train station. The Waltons building on Wickham St has been the subject of a 20-year between the building's owners, Mt Cathay Pty Ltd and council over its poor state."
  • 2011. 15 December. Courier-Mail. "Mayor seeks new laws to pretty up the Valley. EYESORE buildings will have to be prettied up under new local laws being sought by Brisbane's Lord Mayor. Graham Quirk will ask the State Government to pass laws giving council the power to order private owners of derelict structures in Fortitude Valley to make repairs. Cr Quirk said the laws would apply to the owners of all Valley buildings, whether heritage-listed or not."
  • 2011. 16 December. Bridge Magazine publishes an article about the building, saying that the owners are just waiting for price appreciation.
  • 2011. 17 December. Courier Mail. "Grate Wall. There is a major business spat under way in Brisbane's Fortitude Valley which has seen two influential Chinese (sic - Nancy and Joyce Lee were born in Australia and Moc is a Vietnamese name) families pitched against one another and a sort of Great Wall erected as a result. The dispute centres around an important walkway up the often-broken escalator from Wickham St through to the Valley train station. In the one corner are the owners of the run-down Walton building, the Lee family, while in the other corner is Jack Moc, who owns the Happy Valley development. Just over a week out from Christmas Walton managers erected a large wall 20m across that prevents commuters and customers walking through to the Valley train station. Word is the Lord Mayor himself has been called in to try to sort out the mess."
  • 2011. 19 December. Hutchinson Builders blogs about Brisbane Lord Mayor targeting derelict buildings.
  • 2011. 21 December. The Queensland Party writes a blog post Bligh Hangs Up on Worried Traders at McWhirter’s with a youtube video McWhirter's Traders under threat. Jason Somerville tweets "Bne Lord Mayor bleets pressure gets Valley bldg work started; backs away from Council part in closing walkway to McWhirters; shops to close".
  • 2011. 22 December. Brisbane Times: "Five small businesses will close in Fortitude Valley's McWhirters Centre, despite Christmas trading, if the walkway over Wickham Street does not open as planned this morning. ... Talks over the past week between lawyers for three parties have late this afternoon [21 December] reached a financial agreement to re-open the walkway. The parties are Valley Metro owners Bovis Lend Lease, Mount Cathay and Happy Valley, owners of the building next to Wickham Street. They will now each contribute money to the maintenance of the walkway." 4BC Breakfast tweets: "Has the overhead walkway to McWhirters in the Valley reopened to foot traffic? We'll get the latest from the scene, very soon"

Timeline (Mount Cathay period, 2012)Edit

  • 2012. 1 January. The Independent publishes four articles online concerning the walkway and Waltons: Traders facing ruin over walkway closure; How local traders have been affected; Time for ill will and lack of charity to all; and A slap in the face for council. "The Independent doesn’t claim to know the exact truth of this tragedy but understands the Walton’s owners - Mount Cathay Pty Ltd - closed the walkway after a deadline they had set passed for the owners of the adjoining Happy Valley building to fix problems with the Walton’s section of the walkway, including a number of broken and missing floor tiles. The Happy Valley body corporate is understood under a long-standing arrangement to be legally responsible for upkeep of the Walton’s section. ... The Independent understands that at the heart of this standoff is the fact that the Happy Valley Body Coporate is virtually defunct and devoid of the funds needed to bring the Walton’s section of the walkway up to a safe standard for pedestrian traffic."
  • 2012. 10 January. Re-Open The Fortitude Valley Walkway facebook page is created. David Hinchliffe encourages people to show their support through the page.
  • 2012. 11 January. The Happy Valley Body Corporate is reconstituted. This is the property adjacent to the Waltons easement. The Queensland Body Corporate and Community Management Commissioner issues Adjudicators Orders. "The applicants submit that since the scheme was established on 10 July 1995, the body corporate has not complied with its legislative obligations. On the basis of this submission, I am satisfied the body corporate is not currently operating on a proper legal footing. It is appropriate then to appoint an administrator to convene an annual general meeting in the manner sought by the applicants."
  • 2012. 13 January. Bridge Magazine publishes an article about the walkway.
  • 2012. 17 January. Premier Anna Bligh responds to traders via facebook: "Thanks for your message. This is a Brisbane City Council issue, but I have passed your concerns onto the Minister for Local Government. Premier's Team"
  • 2012. 18 January. "Don't Walk" article appears in Scene Magazine. "The Happy Valley body corporate, responsible for the upkeep of the bridge but defunct at the time it was closed, has reformed at the behest of Brisbane City Council. However, Mount Cathay has since advised the Council that the closure is not a matter of financial cost. ... In the meantime, Cr Hinchliffe – set to retire from politics at the next election – urges concerned citizens to make themselves heard. “The best thing I can suggest is that locals should remain active and vocal. The one thing that stirs politicians into action is public unrest. If the public remain compliant and resigned, then the politicians will keep shrugging their shoulders and saying, 'we have no legal power'. The main change in our community comes from those who say 'this is not good enough and we demand it be fixed'.”
  • 2012. 19 January. The Independent publishes three more articles: Valley businesses on the brink, McWhirters traders feel the pinch, and Traders consider taking class action. City News publishes an article "Traders fight for walkway. Fortitude Valley traders have kicked off an online campaign to reopen the walkway between the McWhirters building and the train station, saying its closure is affecting business." Quotes from Rob Hueston, Carol Gordon, Graham Quirk and David Hinchliffe. "[Hinchliffe] said he has recommended the mayor introduce a management agreement between owners and council to end the standoff."
  • 2012. 25 January. Call for Waltons resumption. In the Independent, David Hinchliffe calls "for the State Government to resume this entire walkway and further to join with council to resume the whole Walton's building. It is a disgrace that the Walton's building has been largely unused for almost 30 years. As long as it is in private hands, the council and state governments cannot force the owner to open it. ... I have met again with the Moc family and they have advised that they have signed off on paying the insurance costs for the section of the walkway that goes through the Walton's building. So, they and Lend Lease (and I believe McWhirters) have agreed to the maintenance and insurance costs for the walkway. When Mr Lee from Mount Cathay [owners of the Walton's building] signs that agreement the doors will be opened. That was the advice I received today. However, after the last occasion when I was told the doors would be opened before Christmas, I remain sceptical."
  • 2012. 27 January. Ray Smith and Paul Crowther issue a media release: CALL FOR STATE TO RESUME WALTON'S BUILDING & REOPEN WALKWAY. Brisbane Lord Mayoral candidate Ray Smith and Central Ward candidate Paul Crowther have today called on the State Government to resume the Walton’s building in Fortitude Valley and reopen the public walkway immediately. The call to turn the building from a “liability into an asset” comes as a five-week closure of the public walkway through the Walton’s building has resulted in an estimate $2 million loss of revenue for traders, with several on the verge of closing their doors. Ray Smith and Paul Crowther said the site was significant as a walkway to Queensland Rail’s third busiest train station and for its potential as a cultural ‘catalyst’ for the Valley. “This building has thousands of square meters which haven’t been used for more than two decades,” said Mr Smith.“Most of the building is locked up. It is heritage-listed and has nominal value in its current state. The decision of the owners, Mount Cathay Pty Ltd, to close the doors of the walkway which connects the train station to other buildings in the Valley has been economically devastating for the area."
  • 2012. 30 January. The McWhirters project writes about the history of access to the railway station and the current feud on his blog.
  • 2012. 31 January. Valley traders caught in crossfire of family feud. Brisbane Times publishes an article about the feud between the Lee family and Moc family over the walkway between McWhirters / Happy Valley and the Valley Metro. "Fifty small businesses are being financially strangled because two millionaire property owners in Fortitude Valley cannot agree on fixing a walkway. ... Boiled down to its raw materials the disagreement is now a feud between the landowner Chiu Fan Lee, from Toowong, and Jack Moc, the owner of Happy Valley, the landlords since 2007. …Dr Lee's company Mount Cathay Pty Ltd owns the property where the 20m walkway runs. ... Labor MP Grace Grace last night said the issue was "complex imbroglio", triggered by a failure by a previous state government not to secure the access rights for the walkway to the bridge over Wickham Street when the land was bought in the 1970s. "I find it difficult to believe that at that time, that when all this was built, when the airbridge was built, the walkways were put through, that people did not secure those access rights," she said. She said the Transport Department was investigating its ability to secure access to the walkway to connect through to the Valley train station. "I think Queensland Rail has a legitimate concern about ensuring access rights for their passengers to catch the train," Ms Grace said. "I am awaiting a report with advice on where the director-general is taking this, but my understanding is that (director-general) David Stewart is all over it," she said."
  • 2012. 2 February. City News publishes an article "Standoff claims first casualty. The closed walkway connecting Fortitude Valley station with McWhirters has claimed a victim with the first business to shut down due to lost trade. McWhirters Florist owner Lieng, who did not want his last name published, said the store plans to shut on February 18 but was in negotiations to stay until the end of the month. ... Grace Grace said gaining access rights to the area was more important than resuming the building. "I don't think that's where QR needs to spend its money" Ms Grace said".
  • 2012. 2 February. Brisbane Times covers the Valley Chamber of Commerce lunch. "Our reporter Tony Moore says there is plenty of drum action at the Valley Chamber of Commerce luncheon where Deputy Premier Andrew Fraser is set to speak at the event to mark the Year of the Dragon. Mr Fraser is talking about Australia-China trade and business relations. He is also expected to be asked what can be done to help 50 Fortitude Valley small businesses struggling because of a closed walkway between the Valley train station and McWhirters centre."
  • 2012. 2 February. Deputy Premier buys into Valley dispute.Andrew Fraser, who spoke at the Valley Chamber of Commerce and Industry Chinese New Year event, said "as a last resort", the state government could acquire the easement to the station. "As a last resort the state will look to investigate the legal options to acquiring an easement," he said. "But that would be something that would only be done having exhausted the opportunity for that commercial negotiation." Mr Fraser said the state government was providing "leverage" to allow the commercial negotiations to be resolved. "The legal reality is that it is a dispute between two parties at this point and we are actually paying the price as a community because of the lack of foresight back in the 1980s," he said. Mr Fraser said the state government "was in contact with both parties" to arrange a resolution, "but the legal complexities are very difficult."
  • 2012. 3 February. Lord Mayor Graham Quirk tweets: "BNE locals please shop @ McWhirters this weekend. Traders doing it tough with no foot traffic after walkway closure. CC @CityNewsBris"
  • 2012. 4 February. Courier-Mail, Citybeat on Saturday. Wall under threat. TREASURER Andrew Fraser this week threatened to intervene in a heated business stoush in Brisbane's Fortitude Valley which has threatened about 40 businesses in the area. Readers may recall City Beat's jottings of December 17 when we referred to a sort of Great Wall erected where commuters and shoppers usually strolled up the often broken escalator from Wickham St through to the Valley train station. In one corner are Mount Cathay Pty Ltd, owned by the mysterious Dr Lee, and the owners of the rundown Waltons building, and in the other Jack Moc, who owns the Happy Valley development. Just over a week out from Christmas, Walton managers erected a large wall 20m across that prevents commuters and customers walking through to the Valley train station. Local businesses have suffered but Fraser told City Beat the State Government would step in to authorise an easement of sorts if necessary, but that he would prefer ``if the two disputing parties sorted it out themselves.
  • 2012. 6 February. Village News. "THE Valley Chamber of Commerce has called for a speedy resolution to the war above Wickham Street over the walkway which is denying the public access to the Fortitude Valley railway station and affecting surrounding traders." The article then goes on to describe the current State Government / Council's claims of powerlessness and the fact that the whole dispute over the walkway and building has just become a sparring match between the two major parties on which party has done the least.
  • 2012. 7 February. Brisbane City Council Meeting Minutes 4367. David Hinchliffe: "[Vicki Howard] was savaged today at a meeting in the Valley over the walkway issue because all she had to say was the State government should do something about it. Paul Crowther and I, and Ray Smith, believe that the State government should work with the Council and we should resume the Walton’s building. It has been a sow's ear and it can be turned into a silk purse for the Valley in an area that much needs rejuvenation, and we can do it by taking over that walkway as a public transit access point and bind the building from an owner who has not used it for the last 30 years and turn it into a library, a community centre and downstairs boutique retail, and receive an income to the City of Brisbane. Why should it be done? Because this is the very place where this administration says we should have another 25,000 residents, as many as there are in whole electorates, represented here, plus an additional 50,000 office workers. Now if any place needs community centres and investment in community infrastructure like libraries, it's the Valley, and this is a golden opportunity. Not to point a finger and blame another level of government but to work with another level of government and deliver something. That's what Paul Crowther stands for. Now he isn't savaged when he goes to meetings in the Valley with traders, because he stands for something and he speaks up for something."
  • 2012. 7 February. State steps in to help reopen walkway. "The State Government will step in to help resolve a dispute over access to a pedestrian walkway through two major shopping precincts in Fortitude Valley. Minister for Transport Annastacia Palaszczuk said her department will offer to licence a section of walkway through the old Waltons building in the Valley, which is currently closed off. The building owner blocked off access from the Fortitude Valley Station through the old Waltons building in mid-December." Brisbane Times, mXBrisbane and the Courier Mail write stories based on the press release. Ray Smith and Paul Crowther issue a media release, welcoming "the State Government’s intervention in resolving the long-running Fortitude Valley walkway dispute, which has devastated many local traders." Roberto Cavallucci issues a release: "Valley traders treated as political football. While I welcome the Minister’s announcement, and hope the walkway opens soon, this commitment reeks of politics and I can’t help but feel the traders are being treated as a political football. Today’s announcement from the Minister is another case of spin over substance. The announcement is effectively that a bureaucrat will be making a phone call to make a suggestion."
  • 2012. 8 February. The Independent publishes several articles: "Traders start to walk away"/"Traders set to move on" , "Captain Quirk cleans up as struggling traders clear out", and "Call for Waltons to be resumed".
  • 2012. 9 February. City News. "Peace treaty in walkway war. Resolution is in sight for Fortitude Valley traders hurt by the closure of a vital walkway connecting their businesses and commuters, after intervention from the State Government ... "The department (Transport and Main Roads) has given a commitment that whatever is wrong will be fixed" [Member for Brisbane Central Grace Grace] said. Valley Chamber of Commerce director Carol Gordon believed it could happen very quickly with a similar licensing arrangement inside the Valley Metro centre taking 72 hours. ... "We love the idea, we think it's great, we're just looking at how long it's going to take," [Owner of Autograph Memorabilia Corey Hamilton] said."
  • 2012. 11 February. The Lees' real estate agent Glenn Gracie posts to the "Re-Open the Walkway" page: "If you want to know anything just ask me i do have all the answers some i can share some i cannot."
  • 2012. 15 February. The Happy Valley Body Corporate moves to resolve its insurance issues. The Queensland Body Corporate and Community Management Commissioner issues Adjudicators Orders. "Both owners in the scheme lodged this application seeking an order that the general meeting notice period be reduced to 48 hours so that the body corporate can consider a motion to approve the insurance coverage and raise an urgent special levy to pay the insurance premium of $45,000.00."
  • 2012. 16 February. Glenn Gracie posts again: "I am currently working right now with Mount Cathay Negotiating terms Happpy valley had to get approval from all parties thank you for the support of those who are i am working on the long term fix which does effect the short term gain ."
  • 2012. 17 February. New council clean-up powers for Fortitude Valley. Brisbane Times writes about the proposed "Health Safety and Amenity Local Law 2012" affecting Fortitude Valley properties in a particular area which "includes specific sections which ask that a "bond" be lodged with Brisbane City Council to cover the cost of the work. This bond gets forfeited to the council if the work is not up to standard, or repairs are too slow." Unkempt Valley building owners face fines, mayor says on the ABC. "At the moment, I can tell you for sure that there are tenants who would like to take out leases in the Valley but simply are not because of the general amenity that some buildings [have] and the appearance of the Valley," [Graham Quirk] said. "We need to improve that - it's a very critical part of our city's make-up." Lord Mayor's press release: "The Lord Mayor announced in December last year that Council had begun drafting a new law after the State Government provided advice that Council had no power to act on amenity issues such as buildings that were dirty, dilapidated or in disrepair; only matters of public safety."
  • 2012. 17 February. Terri Begley on 612. "Fortitude Valley building owners have been put on notice - clean up your act or hand over your cash." Terri Begley: "... it's looking pretty dirty and grimy and a bit run-down. I'm standing in front of one of the prime examples that these new laws aim to do something about. It's a building on the corner of Wickham and Brunswick Streets and a lot of people would know it as the former Waltons building. And it really isn't a pleasant sight when you walk past these sort of buildings. There's not only rubbish around and dirty cracked footpaths but the outside of the building is all basically fallen into disrepair. Now this as I said is an example of what the Council wants to be able to force building owners to do something about." Carol Gordon: "[The Valley Chamber of Commerce has] been wanting [these laws] for a long time. ... there are a few [ugly buildings], you'll get a copycat - one owner gets away with it and another owner gets away with it." TB: "A lot of these buildings don't have tenants in them, but why don't the building owners do something about it, don't they want their properties to look at least pleasant to the eye?" CG: "Yes well you'd certainly think so and particularly when many of them have been designated in this area for thirty storey buildings. They're heritage and maybe that's one of the reasons they're trying to ... you know maybe it's looking at running it down so you can actually get away with it. [Ed: presumably she means they are hoping to be given permission to demolish it or have the government demolish it] Certainly we've got plenty of owners who don't think that but you know it looks like that from here." TB: "How much does this get linked to lost business?" CG: "We're already seeing that, this particular owner and one of the other owners here is in legal action etc over access to the railway station. ... Council and government have a requirement to really work together and get the legislation necessary to get it working." 612 posts a photo on twitter.
  • 2012. 21 February. Brisbane City Council Minutes Meeting 4369. "The matter before us today is the draft Health Safety and Amenity Amending Local Law. This is a local law which has been drafted and relates specifically to an area in the Valley. This local law has come about as a result of a history of some building owners in the Valley not maintaining their buildings in a standard which is necessary, if we are going to see an uplift in the daytime economy and the amenity generally of the Valley business precinct. This local law will probably take many months before it actually becomes law. This is the first stage of the process today. This has come about because of the fact that there are many people in the Valley, many business owners that are investing heavily in their buildings, wanting to promote the Valley as a great commercial precinct. There are, however, some business owners that are simply not doing the right thing. It is about making sure that the standard of buildings is not necessarily perfect, but at least reaches a minimum standard—a standard which will not be a detriment for new people wanting to take up a commercial offering in the Valley. So, that is what this proposes to do." Discussion continues from pages 29 to 38, with lots of bickering.
  • 2012. 22 February. The Independent headlines the front page: "Govt offer to fix walkway rejected." "A State Government offer made more than two weeks ago to reopen the closed Waltons walkway that is sending local traders broke has been rejected. ... [Brisbane Central MP] Grace Grace told The Independent this week: "The Government cannot take any action until the owner of the walkway agrees to it. We have a resolution on the table; whether it goes ahead is entirely in the owner's court". But a source close to Waltons owner Mount Cathay Pty Ltd called the government move a "six-month band-aid" that had put negotiations between the parties "back by a week"." Another story is headlined "Parties bicker over a cleaner Valley" about Graham Quirk and ALP Lord Mayoral candidate Ray Smith.
  • 2012. 23 February. City News. "Walkway impasse is strangling businesses. Fortitude Valley business owners have welcomed council laws forcing building owners to clean up their act but want the walkway between Fortitude Valley station and McWhirters opened immediately. Despite a State Government offer on February 7 to lease the walkway and end the 10-week long saga, the doors remain closed, diverting vital pedestrian traffic away from businesses. Member for Brisbane Central Grace Grace said an offer from the Government to take care of the walkway has not yet been accepted by those involved. Ms Grace said the parties were still negotiating but, because they were in caretaker mode, it was impossible to make another offer." Jason Somerville posts a picture of the first closed business in McWhirters, Bewitching Blooms.
  • 2012. 23 February. Lend Lease begins legal action against Mount Cathay in the Brisbane Supreme Court. The file number is 1670/12, Lend Lease is represented by Freehills, and the next listing date is 15 March. Lend Lease applies to the court to order Mount Cathay to "open and keep open the fire doors located at the southeast end of Easement [referred to in Easement section above] ... during the hours of 6.00 am to 8.00 pm each day unless the fire doors need to be closed in the event of a fire hazard", for application costs to be paid by Mount Cathay and "such other orders or relief as the Court considers appropriate". Two affidavits are filed on behalf of Lend Lease.
  • 2012. 27 February. The consultation period begins for the proposed "Health Safety and Amenity Local Law 2012" which aims to "place a duty on owners of buildings in designated areas [ie Fortitude Valley heart] to maintain the appearances of their buildings to a standard which does not detract from the appearances of other buildings in the area". The amending local law and subordinate local law are available on the Brisbane City Council website and the consultation period ends on 19 March.
  • 2012. 7 March. The Lend Lease vs Mount Cathay case is adjourned to 20 March.
  • 2012. 13-14 March. A third and fourth affidavit are filed on behalf of Lend Lease in the Lend Lease vs Mount Cathay case.
  • 2012. 15-16 March. A fifth affidavit is filed on behalf of Lend Lease and Mount Cathay applies for directions (also set down for 20 March). A sixth affidavit is filed on 16 March for Lend Lease and the first affidavit is filed on behalf of Mount Cathay.
  • 2012. 18 March. The Valley Chamber of Commerce publishes their response to the proposed BCC laws affecting the Waltons building and others in the area.
  • 2012. 19 March. A second affidavit is filed on behalf of Mount Cathay. The Independent comments on the case noting that the Happy Valley Body Corporate joined the case.
  • 2012. 20 March. The Supreme Court of Queensland (Judge Lyons) hands down its judgment on the case of Lend Lease Funds Management v Mount Cathay, ordering the easement doors to be opened from 6am on 21 March. Further, it was ordered "the Respondent, Mount Cathay Pty Ltd pay the Applicant's costs of the application, Va Duong Moc and Chan Cu Moc's costs of the application, and the Happy Valley Body Corporate's costs of the application."
  • 2012. 21 March. The walkway is reopened. Valley retailers rejoice at walkway reopening according to the Brisbane Times.
  • 2012. 21 March. RTI documents TMR correspondence: Anne Fry writes to Sal Petroccitto. Mount Cathay ordered to pay costs: "All up there were 10 lawyers at the bar table! During the hearing, one barrister commented on the cost of rectifying a few broken tiles or replacing the tiles with vinyl."
  • 2012. 29 March. City News: Chamber wants better plan to manage Valley. "A management plan in Fortitude Valley could stop problems like the saga of the blocked Walton's walkway, according to the Valley Chamber of Commerce. A dispute between body corporates and building owners was resolved last week only after court intervention to reopen the doors connecting the McWhirters building with the station via the airbridge. The chamber is lobbying for a day management plan to cover the whole area, focusing on connections between the station and surrounding streets."
  • 2012. 12 April. The Independent: "Rough end, somebody?" Traders in McWhirters " ... are looking at a recent Supreme Court decision on the issue to see whether a class action lawsuit might be brough against those who closed the doors in the first place."
  • 2012. 14 April. Reconstruction work begins on the walkway.
  • 2012. 17 April. Preparations begin for a video game arcade to move into the ground level of the Wickham St portion of Waltons. Fastplay Games closed their outlet in Indooroopilly Shopping Centre next to the food court in order to move there.
  • 2012. 17-19 April. On 17 April, Mount Cathay filed a notice of appeal in the Supreme Court (file number 3506/12) concerning their case against the Happy Valley Body Corporate, Lend Lease, and the Mocs; this is noted on the original file on 19 April.
  • 2012. 23 April. The walkway reconstruction with a new non-slip surface is essentially complete. The video arcade final touches are added, and both escalators (up and down) from Wickham Street to the Happy Valley Centre adjoining the Waltons walkway are operational.
  • 2012. 16 May. The Independent writes on the walkway repair. "The Independent understands the work was undertaken by the revitalised Happy Valley Body Corporate in the adjacent building that once housed the Chinese Club, in an agreement signed off between the relevant parties just before the court ruling.That agreement is also believed to be responsible for the fact that the up and down escalators servicing the Happy Valley building to Wickham Street have been operating in both directions reasonably regularly since the walkway makeover, much to the amazement of both local business owners and pedestrians alike."
  • 2012. 29 May. The second respondent in the appeal concerning the walkway files a "Notice of Change of Solicitors".
  • 2012. 18 June. An affidavit is filed on behalf of the first respondent (Lend Lease) in the appeal (sworn 6 June).
  • 2012. 9 July. A record of proceedings is filed on behalf of the appellant (Mount Cathay) in the appeal.
  • 2012. 24 July. Another affidavit is filed in the appeal on behalf of the Happy Valley Body Corporate, and leave is sought to adduce evidence.
  • 2012. 30 July. The Establishment Coordination Committee "agreed to continue the local law making process for the Health Safety and Amenity Amending Local Law 2012 and Health Safety and Amenity Subordinate Local Law 2012."
  • 2012. 6 August. Another affidavit is filed in the appeal on behalf of Lend Lease, and the next hearing date will be 11 September.
  • 2012. 3 September. Walkway woes back to haunt Valley traders? "An appeal against the Supreme Court decision back in May that ordered the reopening of the Waltons walkway has many nearby Fortitude Valley traders once again wondering if they have a commercial future. Mount Cathay Pty Ltd, owner of the Waltons building that houses a 20-metre stretch of the vital walkway that links Valley Metro and the Brunswick Street railway station to McWhirters and beyond, is appealing against the court’s ruling on 19 March that it was responsible for the upkeep of its section of the walkway and that the walkway was safe to use."
  • 2012. 10 September. After two more affidavits were filed on 27 August and 4 September, a "Notice That Party Is Acting In Person" is filed on behalf of the appellant (Mount Cathay).
  • 2012. 11 September. A hearing is held in the Court of Appeal resulting in an adjournment - according to the "Result" table. This will be updated as more information comes to hand.
  • 2012. 24 September. The order in the appeal is filed on behalf of the registrar.
  • 2012. September - October. Fastplay Games moves out of 248 Wickham Street, leaving the premises much better looking than before.
  • 2012. 2 October. Another application to the Court of Appeal is made by Mount Cathay, and they file another affidavit.
  • 2012. 9 October. The judgment in the appeal is delivered. The appeal is dismissed with costs against Mount Cathay. AustLII publishes a version of the judgment with hyperlinks.
  • 2012. 17 October. Mount Cathay and JNL Management lodge a "Change to Company Details Appointment or Cessation of A Company Officeholder (484E)" form. Chui Fan Lee (sic) became a director of Mount Cathay on 10 September 2012, the day before the appeal hearing. Thus, the judgment says: "At the hearing of this appeal, leave was granted for the appellant to be represented by Dr Lee, who is not a lawyer but who is a director of the company" in contrast to the previous hearings where Dr Lee was described as "an authorised representative of Mount Cathay".
  • 2012. 12 November. Nancy Lee writes a letter to ASIC (referring to the previous form 484) chastising them for not having the right name: "Chui Fan Lee" (sic) should have been "Chiu Lee".
  • 2012. October - November. The smashed "A & J Trading" sign on Brunswick Street is removed. With the wetter weather, tarpaulins and buckets are placed on top shelves around the shop to catch leaks.
  • 2012. 21 November. Valley property owners on notice. The Brisbane Times reports on the passing of the new Health Safety and Amenity Local Law 2012 for Fortitude Valley. Vicki Howard writes about the laws on her site. The Courier Mail writes about "Valley property owners face $20,000 fine if clean up order ignored". 4BC chats to Milton Dick about the laws.
  • 2012. 5 December. Costs statement notices are issued in the Mount Cathay / Lend Lease case.

Timeline (Mount Cathay period, 2013)Edit

  • 2013. 1-12 February. More discussion about costs statements in the Mount Cathay / Lend Lease cases.  Two "Notices of Refusal" are issued by the Registrar. See  case 1670/12 and case 3506/12.
  • 2013. 17 February. Walton's tops the "Reader Picks" of ugliest buildings in Brisbane in a survey in the Sunday Mail.
  • 2013. 27 February. Mount Cathay's application to the High Court of Australia is summarily dismissed. This is reported in the "Queensland Law Reporter" of 8 March 2013 and the case was discussed in an article by David Topp in the "Proctor" of March 2013.
  • 2013. 12 April. Costs statements for the two cases are published - see above links.
  • 2013. 10 May. An application is made for an order for costs in the two cases; refused on 14 May.
  • 2013. 31 May. Terry Sweetman in the Courier-Mail writes "the old ABC site will haunt us like the disgraceful Waltons building in the Valley, a magnet for the sad, the sorry and the downright scary.".
  • 2013. 30 July. A costs assessor is appointed for two of the respondents in the court cases.
  • 2013. 6 August - 16 October. Costs orders are made by the deputy registrar.
  • 2013. 7 November. The Mocs apply to the Supreme Court to have Mount Cathay wound up.
  • 2013. 8 November. A "Notification of Application to Wind Up Company" is lodged with ASIC.
  • 2013. 13 November. Liquidators' consent is obtained in the winding up of Mount Cathay.
  • 2013. December. Various affidavits and applications in the cases 1670/12, 3506/12, and 10544/13. Next hearings on 6 January and 15 January 2014.

Timeline (Mount Cathay period, 2014)Edit

  • 2014. 20 January. Final Order for case 10544/13 (insolvency) made.
  • 2014. 6 March. Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal refuses the application to stay a decision against Mount Cathay by the Queensland Fire and Rescue Service.
  • 2014. 29 April. ASIC Notification of Dismissal of Application For Winding Up (519C) lodged for Mount Cathay.

Timeline (Mount Cathay period, 2015) Edit

  • 2015. 6 January. Expressions of interest for joint project opportunity on realcommercial.com.au etcetera. Timing is similar to the selling of the Wakils' properties in Sydney.
  • 2015. 11 June. Where to now for Waltons eyesore? The Independent writes about an architectural plan for the site noting that Lord Mayor Graham Quirk had not yet provided a response to how defects were being remedied.

Timeline (Mount Cathay period, 2017) Edit

  • 2017. 6 July. The latest round of wannabe politicians comment in Brisbane Times in the run-up to the state election (Brisbane Times) ... Rod Bligh and Jamie Forster of the LNP call for compulsory acquisition. Political football game begins again with Grace Grace.
  • 2017. 1 September. Knight Frank puts the buildings up for sale (Brisbane Times)
  • 2017. 1 September. ABC House Detective discusses the building on local radio.
  • 2017. 2 September. 7 News Brisbane has a "primed for development" segment on Waltons.
  • 2017. 7 November. Decaying real estate article on Domain. "And plans are finally underway to give one of Fortitude Valley’s most run-down precincts a new lease on life, with the historic Walton’s building now up for sale. It’s the first time in 33 years the heritage-listed building has been on the market and hopes are high it will be revitalised by a new owner. Knight Frank’s Christian Sandstrom said a tender had recently closed and the vendors were currently in negotiations. The buildings date back to the early 1900s, when Fortitude Valley grew to become a retail heartland for Brisbane, including institutional Brisbane retailers TC Beirne, McWhirters and Waltons. The buildings could now be transformed into a retail, residential or commercial centre, or a mixed-use development, or linked to an arts facility or theatre."
  • 2017. 13 November. Buyers expected to be known by Christmas (Fairfax)
  • 2017. Dec 2017-Jan 2018. REIQ Journal. "The former Walton’s building at 240 Brunswick Street in Fortitude Valley dates back to the early 1900s and went to market for the first time in 30 years in October 2017. Recognised as one of the Valley’s most significant land holdings, the former Walton’s building has a site area of 3489sqm with frontages to both Wickham and Brunswick Streets plus 598sqm lease area for access behind the property which allows for four street access. The site also features an entry to the Fortitude Valley train station and adjoins the proposed $500 million redevelopment of the Valley Metro Centre. An international EOI campaign with Knight Frank closed at the end of October with the property receiving interest from both local and offshore investors. While mixed use including retail, residential or commercial of the site is allowable most of the interest is in underlying value in the existing building and it is expected a heads of agreement will be signed before the end of the year."

Timeline (Mount Cathay period, 2018) Edit

  • 2018. 11 January. Courier-Mail. "Now there are new plans to revitalise the place: the sale of the heritage-listed Waltons building is being finalised and the hope is that its new owner will plough serious money into it."
  • 2018. 13 February. Property ad up again on realcommercial. This time no "international expressions of interest, closing 26 October" etc.
  • 2018. May. Property disappears off realcommercial, remains on knightfrank website.
  • 2018. May and June. Interior photos appear on instagram and Old Brisbane. Lift doors Notice board Telephone Window Lift sign Videos: Video 1 Video 2 Video 3 Video 4 Video 5 Video 6
  • 2018. 5 October. Knight Frank ad claims the building has a 6-star NABERS Energy Rating. Still no photos of the inside.

Timeline (Mount Cathay period, 2019) Edit

  • 2019. 15 April. Millinium Capital Managers Ltd announces plans to invest in the building. Timetable: signing of transaction documents 1 May, proposed date for unitholder meeting 18 June, Date for fulfilment of conditions 30 June, Completion of contract for sale 20 September.
  • 2019. 5 August. BrisbaneDevelopment.com article confirms Millinium Capital's purchase of the Waltons building in April 2019. Preview of plans released including Torrens University campus along with mixed use, student accommodation and commercial tower.
  • 2019. 30 August. Millinium's Alternatives Fund suspended from ASX under Rule 17.3 "Suspension not at entity's request".
  • 2019. 2 September. The 2019 preliminary financial report for MAX lists $1,150,000 under "Receiveables and other current assets" for "Project Waltons Deposit" as at 30 June 2019 (page 21) - included in the Assets total on page 4 under "Statement of Financial Position".
  • 2019. 1 October. CM: "The deadline for the settlement of the purchase of the historic Waltons building in Fortitude Valley has passed putting any hopes for the start of the long-awaited redevelopment of the site on the back burner. Earlier this year Sydney-based fund manager Millinium Capital Managers announced on the ASX a proposed $180 million project on the site with settlement due September 20. However, a unit holders revolt, legal action by the Millinium Capital controlled Millinium Alternatives Fund against a number of parties and an Australian Securities Exchange investigation into the fund stymied any progress. Millinium representatives were not available for comment. But not all is lost with agents understood to be in “continuous discussion with other parties”."
  • 2019. 10 and 20 December. ASX asks MAX on 10 December many questions including: 6. The Draft Announcement disclosed that there had been “several non-refundable payments” in relation to the Waltons Project. (a) What was the dollar value of these non-refundable payments? (b) By and to whom were they due to be paid? (c) When were they due to be paid? (d) When were they in fact paid? 7.The Draft Announcement also disclosed in relation to the Waltons Project that “an extension fee over and above the contractual terms was agreed”. (a) What was the dollar value of the extension fee? (b) By and to whom was the extension fee due to be paid? (c) When was the extension fee due to be paid? (d) When was the extension fee in fact paid? MAX responds to ASX that "... [they do] not intend to provide any additional information or respond in detail to your letter."

Timeline (Mount Cathay period, 2020) Edit

  • 2020. 11 February. The NTAV of a MAX unit falls from $2.3648 (31 January) to $1.8156 (7 February) - a 23% drop in one week.

PicturesEdit

In May 2011, nathandavid88 took nine pictures of the exteriors which are available at Skyscrapercity.com.

He updated the photos in September 2011.

Other photos can be found at Degilbo's Flickr site (1959), SkyscraperCity (2006 and 2008), rik_kishay's Flickr site (2008), sleeplessnightsandcitylights (2010) and brisdailyphoto (2010), and through Trove (which also indexes many older BCC photos).

P1070472

The end of Overells Lane with Waltons (1987) and Norman Ross (1988) signage still visible.

P1070477

The internal walkway through the Waltons building from the Valley Metro to the Happy Valley Centre, May 2011

Ab

May 2011, former main entrance on Brunswick St.

People and companiesEdit

A CITEC Confirm search indicates the building is currently owned by Mount Cathay Pty Ltd. Contact details are available at their Dun and Bradstreet page.

Chiu Fan Lee is an "authorised agent" of Mount Cathay, according to an affidavit filed by Ben Holt in the Supreme Court of Queensland in March 2012. He became a director of Mount Cathay in September 2012.

The directors of Mount Cathay Pty Ltd are Chiu Fan Lee and Nancy Lee, also directors of JNL Management Pty Ltd. Presumably, JNL refers to Joyce and Nancy Lee.

Mount Cathay Pty Ltd is presumably named after Mount Street, Toowong, where the Lees live / lived and they and their companies own six of the 26 properties.

CNS Holdings Pty Ltd (which may stand for Chiu and Nancy) is a member of Mount Cathay Pty Ltd. CNS Holdings, JNL Management, Mount Cathay Pty Ltd, Mount Valley Pty Ltd, and Mount Valley Management Pty Ltd have equivalent ASIC histories since 2005.

Mount Cathay Pty Ltd is, or has been, associated with Chiu-Fan, Nancy and Joyce Lee.

Mount Cathay Pty Ltd and Chiu Fan Lee have been involved in several legal cases in the Queensland District and Supreme Courts since 1988.

Nancy and Joyce Lee also founded Mount Logan Pty Ltd, also associated with CNS Holdings, which acquired a 4777 sq m property at 1420 Logan Road, Mt Gravatt in 1982 and kept it largely vacant for years, until it was sold in 1999. For further information, see Mount Logan Pty Ltd.

QuestionsEdit

The research raises many questions:

  • What drives people to "collect" properties on this scale? What is the point? Can they take the properties with them after they die, or leave them to their family? Shouldn't wealth be used for the betterment of society instead of just enriching oneself or hoarding?
  • Why doesn't the owners' self-interest work in the case of the Waltons building? Why don't they clean it or attempt to redevelop? Is part of the reason they don't do anything due to having been able to remain "anonymous" until now?
  • A land tax would prevent this kind of speculation or land banking from occurring in the first place. Is a land tax or council / government intervention the only way to solve this problem? See the land tax section below.
  • After lives spent helping people in a productive capacity nursing and teaching, is the Lees' legacy just going to be this rundown building? Is this what people will remember them for?
  • Do enough people know about searches like CITEC Confirm for property? Should property data be available at even lower cost to the public? Hong Kong Land Registry searches are just $HK10 per search ($A1.25) versus $A5.81 for the cheapest CITEC Confirm search, the QVAS Address Search up to $A17 for other QVAS searches.
  • Similarly, company searches in Australia are very expensive. A person search is $44.31 on CITEC Confirm and an historical company extract is $25.61. Either of these searches in New Zealand are free at the New Zealand Companies Office where the shareholder structure, director information, and annual reports are freely available on the actual government website (rather than through third parties). This expense limits transparency as journalists investigate only the most interesting cases.

What to doEdit

The current condition of the building shows a great lack of imagination and creativity on the part of the owner. It is inertia on the part of the community that allows the owner to continue doing nothing. Imagine what Brisbane would look like if all owners kept their buildings in such a condition, speculating in the hope of capital gain. What can be done?

  • Brisbane City Council - Show Cause notices. Who can do something? Even with current by-laws, just based on a cursory inspection of the lane, the ceilings in the Brunswick St stores, and the exterior of the Wickham St building, there are numerous health and safety problems. However, the BCC, up until 20 October 2011, seemed unwilling or unable to issue a Show Cause notice under Section 247 and 248 of the Queensland Building Act 1975 . (Such a notice may have been issued in the past but no public record of it seems to exist.) Also see Section 589 and 590 of the Queensland Sustainable Planning Act 2009 concerning show cause and enforcement notices.
  • State Government - Power to force repairs. Perhaps the council or state government needs more powers to force owners to fix dilapidated buildings. In the Independent, James Delahunty has suggested council or state legislation similar to the "Building Act 1984" in the UK could be enacted here. Section 79 of this act gives the local authority powers to require the owner to repair dilapidated buildings or demolish them. On 13 December 2011, Brisbane City Council Lord Mayor Graham Quirk announced his intention to draft such laws.
  • Resumption. David Hinchliffe, Ray Smith and Paul Crowther have called for resumption of the walkway and the whole Waltons building.
  • Blight Tax. Participants in a discussion about a vacant lot in Berkeley, California (Rats of Telegraph Avenue, Vacant Lot on Haste and Telegraph) suggest the council institute a "blight tax, which some municipalities do, when properties are left vacant and subject to blighted conditions". Other American cities have enacted or proposed a "non-utilization tax"; for instance Boston and Philadelphia or a "vacant property tax" as in Washington DC or "empty property tax" as in the UK.
  • Recession. Geoff Dick commented: "(Dr Lee) just hangs
 onto the buildings till they go up in value.". Based on this comment, a recession causing a drop in the value of the buildings might force a sale. However, Mount Cathay has held the buildings since 1984 and has kept them largely empty since 1988.
  • Land Tax. See the following section. This would be the most effective solution and would have prevented the issues discussed here from arising in the first place, but requires political will.

Land TaxEdit

As noted above, a sufficiently high land value tax would prevent the kind of speculative withholding of land evident in the case of the Waltons building.

Brisbane had a 1989 Inquiry into land value rating led by Gordon Chalk which noted that: "a charge on the value of land encourages development and discourages the speculative withholding of vacant land from productive use".

A key recommendation of the 2010 Henry tax review was the implementation of a broad based land tax.

In a Darwin parallel to the Waltons building, the old Woolworths building on the corner of Smith and Knuckey Street in the Darwin CBD, owned by Kerry Manolas, has been empty since 2007 or before. Terry Roth, Director of Herron Todd White Property Valuation suggests a land value tax would fix such problems: "A land tax would encourage a more efficient use of land by the fact that people wouldn't be able to afford to have shops sitting vacant for as long as they do at the moment. They would have significantly more holding costs than they do now so would prefer to see it rented or used than stand vacant." (Note that a poster on skyscrapercity.com claimed that Woolworths is still paying rent on the site as of October 2011.)

Another family, the Wakils, owns 15 buildings in the Sydney CBD and Pyrmont, some of which have been empty since 1981. See Sydney's Mystery Empty Buildings, Sydney's Empty Property Magnates, and Empty dwellings in a city desperate for places to live.

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.