On the daily walk to my coffee machine, known as Chapel Street, I always venture past Channel 9’s The Block’s Glasshouse behemoth. With the glare of the camera lights gone, it’s hard not to notice the building slowly reverting back to its original state of a tired 1980s glass-fronted office block, rather than remaining the much-hyped luxury Prahran apartment block, which notoriously failed to attract the bidders on auction day.
It made me wonder: “What state are past The Block properties in now that the cameras have stopped rolling, and Scott Cam and his gang of merry men having moved on to their next project?”
So I thought I’d set off on a The Block tour of Melbourne (like a Sex and the City tour of New York!) and see how the constructed-for-TV apartments are fairing.
Season 4: 37–43 Cameron Street, Richmond
First stop on my self-drive tour was the inaugural Melbourne-based series – it wasn’t until season 4 when The Block discovered Melbourne councils to be friendlier than their Sydney counterparts. Well, at least that’s the official line as to why Melbourne is a clear favourite for hosting the series. There’s also a rumour that Melbourne audiences are much more territorial and are more likely to watch a Melbourne-based series, generating greater ratings for Channel 9, given that Sydney viewers will tune into a locale of either city. Apparently.
To be honest, I didn’t watch season 4 of The Block, so I had no clue what I was looking for when trolling the inner-city suburb of Richmond. And if I didn’t have the address in front of me, I might have kept driving because the four terrace houses definitely don’t have the current signature The Block style of weird and wacky, with black exterior cladding.
The unique individual houses, which were rescued from disrepair when the series aired in 2011, all appear to have stood the test of time relatively well. At least from the outside. Short of knocking on the door and demanding a personal tour, I have no idea what’s going on inside. Could be a school for circus monkeys, for all I know!
Each of the houses have developed their own style and don’t resemble part of a set, making me think they would have been a good buy compared to other alumni properties from The Block production line. Too bad, four years ago, only one out of the four houses sold on auction day.
Season 5: 401–407 Dorcas Street, South Melbourne
Again, I didn’t watch this series, so being sans tour guide I had to do all the detective leg-work myself. Although driving down busy Dorcas Street, you can’t miss these four character-less, matchy-matchy, double-story terrace houses, which sold for a minimum of $1.33 million on auction day. Resembling a cheap motel that’s walked out of a horror movie, each apartment is differentiated only by their different coloured doors, which are all original from the show, except one. The buyer of Dale and Sophie’s apartment clearly wasn’t a fan of blue, grabbing a paint brush and opting for either a weird shade of pink or now-faded purple.
Season 7: Sky High, 142 Park Street, South Melbourne
Returning back to Melbourne, after an All Stars stint in Sydney, the drama and difficulty was amplified in 2013, with contestants tasked with turning the four-star Biz Motel’s 41 tiny suites into five full-floor, luxury apartments. Renovating a group of terrace houses looks like child’s play in comparison to the extreme The Block tasks of recent years.
Selling for a minimum of $1.435 million, with bloated floor plans and car parks, the apartments seem good value on paper, but were clearly difficult to rent out, with never-ending lease signs adorning the property in 2014. Or perhaps it was the prospect of leaving your Porsche or Bentley in the open-air car park that was the deterrent, as was the norm when I visited.
Compared to the Richmond terraces of season 4, or any strata complex for that matter, the building is not exactly wearing well. Even my bad eyesight could see the spider webs between the cladding, and the overgrown vertical plants are in desperate need of a water or some sunscreen.
Season 8: Fans vs Faves, 47 O’Grady Street, Albert Park
Surely if you were cast into this series you would have thought you’d struck a gold mine, with the bones of a historic character building in tightly-held Albert Park to work with.
Although, struggling to gain building approval in time, it’s rumoured that the Fans vs Faves contestants were nearly moved to the Glasshouse building, meaning that they would have traded in their $606,625 average windfall for the $141,000 average earned on the Glasshouse season (although this figure was disproportionately distributed, as we all know). Interesting that we’ve finally found something Alysa and Lysandra aren’t complaining about.
Paying $5.9 million for the historic Dux House warehouse, compared to $8.25 million for the Glasshouse office complex and $6.71 million for Biz Motel, it was clearly also a gold mine for The Block‘s production company.
Lesson of the day is that bare brick ages beautifully. Nothing more to say, the apartments are still in mint condition. I’d be more than happy to list 47 O’Grady Street as my address!
Season 9: Glasshouse, 121 High Street, Prahran
Venturing back closer to home, it was an interesting experience living a few doors down from the Glasshouse during construction, able to glimpse new rooms popping up each week, and eternally wondering if you were ever going to record a Neale Whitaker sighting.
Upon receiving the letter from Channel 9, in March 2014, notifying us that the next season of The Block would begin filming in the neighbourhood the following week, and ensuring us that it would result in minimal disruption, I thought “minimal disruption, yeah right!” But sure enough, if it wasn’t for the rare glimpse of a camera crew or brightly-coloured Suzuki you wouldn’t have known one of Channel 9’s most popular TV shows was being filmed just down the road. It was all very quiet. Well at least that was until The Block Open Day when High Street was blocked off, and the cars and trams were replaced with screaming fans lining up for hours to get a look at the stunning atrium apartments, with their copper light pendants, parquetry floors and ceiling-suspended pot plants.
Six months on from auction day, however, the building is back to being eerily quiet, very rarely with lights on or an actual person spotted entering the building. The bottom retail level is also still eagerly awaiting two buyers or tenants, and the glasshouse is in urgent need of a window clean.
Season 10: Triple Threat, 27 Darling Street, South Yarra
Currently airing at the moment, this season is slowly revealing the transformation of a block of South Yarra flats, turning 12 poky apartments into four three-level, poky, luxury apartments. I know the name South Yarra brings a minimum reserve of $1 million alone, but such compromised, tight apartments, on a relatively busy street that connects Toorak Road and Alexandra Avenue, will surely struggle to fetch a $2 million-plus price tag. Right??
With filming having already taken place in October 2014 to January 2015, the apartments, at least from the outside, look just about finished, with the signature The Block adornment of black panelling and a moody finish.
Season 11: 1–5 Commercial Road, South Yarra
Although officially unconfirmed by Channel 9, the rumoured site for the next series of The Block, to air in late-2015, is an old motel complex, again in South Yarra.
The weird, abandoned, eight-level ex-Hotel Saville building has a The Block makeover written all over it, given its architectural interest. However, being in the arse-end of South Yarra, its appeal as a luxury residential address has to be questioned. Although it has the glorified 3141 postcode, the octagon-shaped building is sandwiched between the horn-banging thoroughfares of Punt and Commercial roads, plus it has the very attractive view of a Caltex.
You must wonder whether we’ll see déjà vu of the Glasshouse season where the building’s bizarreness will ward off actual money-paying buyers. Plus, the building is also giving off some serious murder house vibes! Perhaps it’s because it’s a big imposing eyesore in a stretch of suburbia that is relatively dominated by cottages and low-rise buildings. Or it could also be that it was the scene of an alleged vampire sex attack in 2002!!
Let’s just say (if I had a home reno bone in my body) I wouldn’t be putting my hand up for next season, but I’m more than happy to watch from the safety of my couch.