A Snapshot of ‘Manar’ next2



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© Warren Fahey


Around this time Stanley Korman, a very rich, very shonky property developer had purchased the site of Cario, 81 Macleay Street, and commenced work on the Chevron Hilton, a five-star international hotel with, according to the prospectus, ‘The most exciting project of the day with a modern international hotel, tourist centre and airline terminal’. By 1961 the bottom had dropped out of the speculator’s land market and in 1962 Chevron Hilton went into receivership. By 1968 Stanley Korman had been jailed for improper conduct. Cairo, opposite Manar, and where Ikon stands today, must have been a wonderful stately home. It boasted two lawn tennis courts and the gardens covered the whole area. Like many of the larger homes it became apartments and then a reception centre for weddings and functions.

It appears that one of the major problems Manar had with the Chevron Hilton was the frisky window cleaners who insisted on whistling at the passing girls, including the Manar residents. In 1961 a resolution was passed to send a letter of complaint to the hotel’s management in an attempt to stop the nuisance whistlers. In the same year the committee lodged an objection to a development application to establish the Viking Restaurant at 44 Macleay Street.

As a continuing guide to levy fees I note that in 1961 flats 1 and 2 paid Pounds 266/2/3 and flats 26 and 27 paid 355/18/6.

On the 21st July 1964, the minutes instructed the Secretary ‘To write to the Commissioner of Police extending thanks for their work in guarding Manar during the stay of the Beatles (sic) and also to ATN Channel 7 for supplying extra security during the group’s visit.’

It was also moved the Caretaker be given an additional ten pounds for his extra efforts at this time. I note there were front fences on Manar at this time.

Dr Rowan Nicks moved into Manar 43 years ago with his wife Mary and, by all accounts it was a far different place. For a start, in 1964, the gardens were overgrown and uninspiring. “After WW2 the majority of people living at Manar were war widows and people on the pension, and the idea of spending money on the gardens was unpopular.”        It was Rowan Nicks who started to get the garden moving reflecting his lifelong interest in flowers, scrubs and, of course, birds. He likes to say, “I have an interest in all living things, including humans.” The latter being brought out by his dedication to the medical profession and especially in his work establishing the cardiac thoracic unit at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in 1956. In October 2006 this work was celebrated with Dr Nicks receiving an Honorary Membership to the College of Thoracic Surgeons.

Two years after Rowan Nicks arrived at Manar the company received a letter from Oser, Fomertaux & Associates, architects of Sydney, that they had an interest in acquiring the entire Manar site which, they said, ‘Is not advantageously used in its present site and that its location and size will permit a development which would give present owners a considerable profit’. The envisaged development included retail shops across Macleay Street and between 70 -90 flats of two or three bedrooms and ‘of a luxury type’ in one or two buildings.

The extraordinary thing about this letter was the readiness and enthusiasm the Manar residents adopted the concept. For the ensuring six years moves were made to sell the land, demolish the three buildings and develop apartment blocks. We all know that this ‘slash and burn’ happened right across Sydney in the 60s and, unfortunately, local councils and State government were hand-in-hand with the developers. The resulting apartments of the sixties were nearly all gawd-awful ugly using new, lightweight plasters and bricks and usually devoid of traditional design features.

I will highlight some of the events in this real estate circus, as it should encourage further appreciation of the heritage value of Manar and similar apartment blocks.

In 1967 the committee of Manar expressed concern that they would not get a high enough return on the sale. In response the developers suggested 150 smaller apartments.

(Note: As decimal currency was introduced in 1966 all further prices and costs will be in dollars.)

One of the mechanisms of the sale was to establish the price per square foot. Manar buildings comprise some 37,364 square feet on a 4:1 ratio and, with the offered sale price would return something like $20 per sq ft. Further it was noted that the value was approximately $7 a sq ft and the retail value between $8 – $10. By comparison the old Rushcutters Bay Stadium site was valued at $4-$5 as at 11th August 1967 (Sun Newspaper). One needs to understand that this was the period when much of Sydney was being developed as ‘home units’.

The original offer to purchase lapsed.

L. J. Hooker then entered the story and sent an offer to purchase the Manar site. A ‘Development of Manar’ Committee was established to look at this offer and had its first meeting on 23rd June 1969.

The Committee reported back that the Hooker was not followed up however a ‘genuine’ offer arrived from Parkes Development Pty Ltd for $50 a sq ft which would yield $19 sq ft after agent’s commission etc.

The Committee sited the site of the original Pomeroy site (for the Commodore Hotel) which was 20,000 sq ft yielding $17.25 per sq ft net.

On 12th November 1969 the committee passed a motion to sell at $4,500,000 and sent this information to 17 real estate agents in Sydney. Incidentally, the address of Manar at this time was officially

7-9 Onslow Place Potts Point.

Next came Laing and Simmons who said they were interested ‘on behalf of a developer’ who wanted to build an ‘international hotel’.

Dr Beaumont, chair of the sub committee, recommended a sale ‘not less than $19’ and reported the committee had surveyed owners in August 1969 with the following result:

18 – yes to sell at $19
6 – no but would accept a higher offer
1 – not interested in any sale
1 – rejected all offers
1 – no response.

The sub-committee then recommended that the price should actually be $27 per sq ft – reflecting the 331/3 increases in Land Tax and Water rates for the site.

On the 15th October 1969 a Special General meeting of Manar was held and resolved: ‘That the real estate property of the Company be offered for sale at a price of $3,045,000 net, being the equivalent of $27 net per share.’

A 75% majority was required and was carried 16/6 and a subsequent motion passed ‘to accept the offer from L J Hooker’

A V Jennings then entered the field with an offer. Apparently neither Hooker’s nor Jennings’s offer materialised. Hooker, of course, went bust around this time. It is important to realise that the Manar company, representing the various apartment owners, was in debt to the bank and this would have been the main reason the committee pursued the idea of selling the land so vigorously.

The committee seemed to have shot itself in the foot and these were rather troubled times. Five month’s later, in April 1970, it passed a motion to take Manar to auction (with a reserve) through Raine and Horne. In May of that year a Special Resolution noted all Manar owners had agreed to the sale of the three buildings and land but with a reserve of $5,000,000 net. The following owners did not register either way 16, 22, 14, 2, 5.

Progress was slow and in 1971 the committee was advised of impending changes to the City of Sydney zoning regulations. The committee still seemed determined to proceed with the sale and, in 1972, lowered the sale price to $4,250,000, which, for the time, yielded $96.65 per sq ft gross.

In January 1973 a contract arrived prepared by Stephen Jacques and Stephen for Datura Pty Ltd to purchase Manar. Datura was a nominee company of the legal firm Stephen Jacques and Stephen! The purchase price had gone up again to $4,500,000 with a four-month option to proceed. The Committee moved a motion to accept the offer. Negotiations continued and on the 27th April 1973, Datura Pty Ltd issued a special notice to shareholders about vacant possession. Inventories of vacant possession for fixtures and fittings were assembled – including the following oddities:

1 – all light fittings
5 – two air conditioners.
10 – wall bracket for clock
11 – gramophone
17 – marble hall table
24 – gold gilt mirror
25 – chandeliers
26 – stainless steel laundry sink
27 – pair of French antique wrought iron gates with side panels, six-foot Japanese screen, and all carpets.

In September 1973 the Datura option to buy had lapsed and, combined with the new building height restrictions included in new zoning regulations, the idea of selling Manar as a development site collapsed.

The saga of the Manar site sale disappeared but general business did not. In March 1973 the committee resolved to conduct a ‘survey’ to monitor the front hallway of Building Three and ‘identify persons entering and leaving the building between 9 pm and 11 pm on a night suitable to the caretaker.’

The following month the results of the ‘survey’ were revealed and the secretary was instructed to write to the owner of number 16 seeking (a) name of person occupying flat (b) acknowledge that said person was keeping a cat and (c) a request to make available a copy of the tenant lease. Apparently legal action was threatened (by the owner of number 16) and eventually there were apologies all round and the problem disappeared.

The neighbours had also appeared to stir the committee for many years. Late in 1967 the committee objected to a development application for a nightclub at 44 Macleay Street, to be called the ‘007 Club’. In March 1970 letters were exchanged between the Committee and the owner of the Texas Tavern, a notorious bar in the de Vere Hotel. Some of the residents of Manar must have been noisy too for in May 1970 the cryptic minutes report: ‘The doors of number one were left open early one morning. Further inspection showed the apartment unoccupied but R&R uniforms were evident.’ Another minute notes that an application for short-term rent in December 1973 for seven members of the British Team participating in the Sydney to Hobart Yacht race had been refused.

Manar has a long and illustrious association with the arts, medicine and politics and to give a social perspective to this survey I provide the following snippets:

The daughter of Sir Earl Page, Prime Minister of Australia for 19 days in 1939, lived at Manar, in apartment eight. Page was known as ‘King of the Clarence’ (referring to the Clarence River, near Grafton) and Sir Robert Menzies’ nemesis. An intriguing name that came up as part of Manar’s twentieth century history was Bailey-Tart. Mary Bailey-Tart was the daughter of Sir Earle Page and she lived at Manar with her husband Wilfred Bailey-Tart, who was a noted newspaper editor working for the SMH and as editor of the Daily Examiner. One wonders whether there is a link to Quan Tart the successful Sydney-Chinese restaurateur of the late nineteenth century.