If its walls could talk, the former Pentridge Prison could tell tales of Australia’s last execution. It could then spin the yarn about being the resting place of infamous bushranger Ned Kelly. Closed since 1997, the prison is set to house a new set of tenants all together, with a new lease of life as a luxury hotel—The Adina Apartment Hotel.
Plans for the 120-room hotel have been approved, and the developer, Taiwan-based Shayher Group, has already commenced construction. The hotel will consist of 14 heritage rooms, 116 rooms in the new sections of the building and 56 residential apartments. The doors are scheduled to open in 2020.
The apartment-hotel design will carefully blend old with new, brought to life by heritage-building experts Cox Architecture while retaining as much as possible of the building's former glory. And yes, that means guests will have the chance to spend the night in a converted prison cell, albeit a pretty luxurious one.
The apartment-hotel design will carefully blend old with new, brought to life by heritage-building experts while retaining the building's former glory.
Shayher’s Victorian General Manager Robert Cogoi spoke with Jobsite about the development: “This project incorporates B Division, one of the two cell blocks on the Pentridge Coburg site. We are retaining the majority of the existing building. However, some sections need to be modified so that they can be used.
“Because they were so purpose-built, the size of the prison cells—around 1.6 x 3m—does not lend easily to other uses. That’s why part of the design process has been to look for a use that would allow us to occupy the building with as little adaption of the existing fabric as possible. Parts of the building also need upgrading to align them with current codes—this includes a lot of the services.”
The former prison has a fairly gruesome history. The gravesite of bushranger Ned Kelly formerly lay within the walls of Pentridge Prison. Kelly was executed by hanging at the Melbourne Gaol in 1880; his remains moved to Pentridge Prison in 1929, after having been disturbed on 12 April 1929 by workmen constructing the present Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) building.
Pentridge was also the site of Australia’s last execution. Ronald Ryan was hanged there in 1967 for shooting and killing a police officer during a prison escape. Initially buried in the prison, Ryan’s remains were later returned to his family.
“Whilst the new face of Pentridge is an exciting evolution, it’s the history of the site that makes it unique,” says Cogoi.
“A Heritage interpretation plan has been developed for the public areas of the Pentridge Coburg site, which will include the hotel. This will consist of an overlay of installations that talk about the history of the site for those who wish to learn about it.”
He continues: “Of course, as some of the more serious stories are not necessarily appropriate for all ages, how people can access the information needs to be thought about more creatively. Some of the ideas that are being explored include the use of apps to access certain information as well as light and sound installations, which are less intrusive to the heritage fabric of the building.”
In its new life, Pentridge, or rather the Adina Apartment Hotel, will also see the building's former chapel restored as a function space, along with the addition of an all-day dining restaurant, indoor pool, gym, conferences facilities, and parking.
The Shayher Group is also developing the site next door, which will offer even more options.
The Shayher Group is also developing the site next door, which will offer even more options. It is set to house nine more levels of accommodation, six residential storeys and one level of communal facilities.
The hotel will be part of a new precinct in the area, which will also incorporate a 15-screen Palace cinema, a supermarket and an assortment of cafes, restaurant, bars and a pub and microbrewery. None of these is yet open, with construction on the precinct delayed until earlier this year.
While refusing to be drawn on the cost of the project, Cogoi says there will be impressive job creation: “It has been estimated that over the whole site, through direct employment, construction and suppliers, we would be looking at the development supporting around 8,000 jobs.”
Pentridge is not the first former prison to find a new lease of life as a hotel, with many famous examples across the globe, including The Old Mount Gambier Gaol in South Australia.
A list of 15 other prisons, converted into luxury hotels or hostel accommodation can be found here.