New owner dreaming big with hospital site

Wodonga businessman Doug Milos excited for future of Murray Valley Private Hospital site after purchasing it

STORY ACCREDITATION: The Border Mail, 11 February | Writer: Beau Greenway

Dixon Commercial Real Estate property manager Andrew McMillan, new owners of Wodonga’s Murray Valley Private Hospital site Doug Milos and Bella Rafaell and selling agent Andrew Dixon taking a look inside the distinctive building on Noordsvan Drive. Picture by Ash Smith

A Wodonga businessman who worked in the city’s Murray Valley Private Hospital building more than 30 years ago is thrilled to own it.

Doug Milos was a cost analyst at the defunct Clyde Cameron College for two years in the late 1980s, before Ramsay Health Care bought it and converted it into a private hospital a decade later.

He said he was surprised to see the property, known for its brutalist architecture, placed on the market last year and jumped at the chance to acquire it.

Mr Milos, who became the co-owner of the building with Bella Rafaell this week, has plenty of ideas in mind for the 41,500-square-metre site and wants it to remain an important asset to the Wodonga community.

“I was a bit apprehensive because there’s a lot to this property. There’s a lot of opportunity that could be created with a building that has this unique profile,” he said.

“It really impressed me a lot when I first worked here, and, when it came on the market, I had to have a look.

“The opportunity presented itself because I sold another property and the funds I got out of that property allowed me to buy this.

“There’s just so many opportunities here. I thought it could be a music academy, an educational facility, or it could be a retirement home. There’s quite a few propositions that we could look into.

“I know a few people in the aged care industry, so in the next year or so I’ll be making inquiries through them to find an operator. We have to look at the viability and the feasibility of doing it and what needs to be changed here for that to happen.

“For people where mobility is a big issue, you’ve got to look at the building and see what the restrictions are. We might have to do some modification work.

“In the short term, I’m really going to try to dress the place up a little bit and get the garden redone around the back and tidied up.”

Mr Milos said he had also been approached by property developers about the prospect of constructing apartments around the building.

“You could probably fit 100 units all the way around it because there’s enough land there. We could get experts in the city to have a look at that and approach the council to see if we can blend that in and make this this whole thing work,” he said.

“We might even put a small IGA here or something like that, which is another possibility.

“There’s countless possibilities here, which is really exciting. Even if I didn’t do anything with it, I would still love it.”

Dixon Commercial Real Estate’s Andrew McMillan and Andrew Dixon with the new owners of Wodonga’s Murray Valley Private Hospital, Doug Milos and Bella Rafaell. Picture by Ash Smith

Mr Milos, director of Rancho Holdings, a long-term warehouse partner of Mars Petcare, said it would be “an absolute shame” if the former Clyde Cameron College site was not fully utilised.

“Wodonga is very lucky to have a building like this because it’s the only one of its kind in Australia. I think people tend to forget because it’s hidden away here and you don’t tend to notice it,” he said.

“Because it’s so big, you could probably allocate this building into three different components.

“You can have one section dedicated to maybe a women’s refuge. The government is now looking at funding women’s refuges, it’s a new direction governments are taking, so I’m going to speak to the right people there to find out if that is possible.

“I know the manager of Westmont (Aged Care Services) well and he has just retired, so it would be good to get his ideas as well.

“You’ve got to be flexible and have an open mind to explore the opportunities. They’re not going to come knocking on your door, you’ve got to explore them all and connect up with the right people, because that will make the difference.”

Selling agent Andrew Dixon, of Dixon Commercial Real Estate said he felt a real sense of pride in Mr Milos when he inquired about the site.

“It’s a significant property locally,” he said.

“Initially, we weren’t going to disclose who the buyer was, but Doug and Bella are proud of what they’ve purchased. They’re proud of the building.”

Ramsay Health Care will remain in the premises for another 18 months before it takes Murray Valley Private Hospital’s services across the river to Albury Wodonga Private Hospital.

Mr Milos said there would be no short-term changes made for other tenants of the building, including Seal Swim School.

“I don’t want to create any disruption for anyone here at the moment,” he said.

“We’ll formalise things a little bit more and get some legal advice on how it will work with our current arrangement.”