The Nylex clock may live again in a $1 billion redevelopment of Melbourne's famed Cremorne brewery site

The Nylex clock sits atop the redeveloped Cremorne brewery site in this artist’s impression. Source: Caydon.

The most famous timepiece in Melbourne may finally spring back to life if a $1 billion residential project near the MCG is approved.

Caydon Property Group wants to redevelop the disused malting silos beside the Yarra River in Cremorne. One of the city’s most famous neon signs, the heritage-listed Nylex clock, sits above the silos and has been dormant for six years since Nylex Plastics slid into receivership.

But developer and Tigers football club board aspirant Joe Russo has pledged to restore the clock and power it with green energy if his plans for 1.4 hectare development, “the Malt District” are approved.

Russo’s company, Caydon, which acquired the old Cremorne brewery site over the last seven years, lodged plans for the development yesterday.

The project’s cost is estimated at around $1 billion, and includes 1000 apartments and serviced apartments, and 6000 square meters of retail and commercial space in buildings up to 21 stories high.

An artist’s impression of part of the Malt District precinct by Fender Katsalidis Source: Caydon.

Russo has engaged architect David Sutherland from Fender Katsalidis, the company behind Hobart’s famed Mona Museum, and Melbourne’s Australia 108, the tallest residential building in the Southern Hemisphere, to design the precinct, along with landscape designers Oculus.

The plans will retain some of the concrete silos the Nylex clock sits atop. The newer, bigger silos will be demolished.

It’s the biggest project Caydon has taken on, having previously developed the $180 million, 250-apartment Atria complex in Hawthorn, and $200 million 323 apartment Trilogi building in Prahan. The 26-floor STK apartment tower in St Kilda is currently under development.

Russo said he wanted to create a residential, commercial and tourism hub on the Cremorne site that may even include a craft brewery and a rooftop bar, along with viewing platform near the clock.

“It’s about creating a vibrant destination where small businesses can make a start, artisans can display their craft, and where local and international tourists can visit for a drink or a meal,” he said.

He also see potential for a ferry service linking the area to the CBD.

“With expectations many residents in the new Malt District will work in town, it was important that we capitalise on bicycle and pedestrian networks along the Yarra and adjacent parks,” he said.

Details from the Fender Katsalidis design for the old brewery. Source: Caydon.

Developers have been eyeing off the site for more than a decade, but have been thwarted by the heritage aspects of the area. Caydon first bought part of the site in 2008 before acquiring the remainder last year for a reported $38 million.

The 1961 Nylex clock, which also tells the temperature, has endured a chequered history over the past decade. Following a $300,000 restoration in 2005, after being operative for more than a year, it had subsequent technical problems, the fell dark once again with the collapse of the Nylex company.

The Victorian government made its restoration the centrepiece of 2013 development plans that failed to come to fruition.

The clock mysteriously sprang back to life for a few hours in January this year, albeit an hour behind daylight savings time, before returning to darkness.

But the clock may be the least of the challenges for Caydon, with growing concerns about an oversupply of apartments in Melbourne and cooling prices predicted in the coming years.

Caydon is hoping to have its project up and running within four years.

Here’s the company’s promotional video for the site.

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