New future beckons for Old Geelong Gaol

The old cellblock will remain an integral part of the Old Geelong Gaol.

The redevelopment of St Mary’s Hall and school site will be a blueprint for the sale of the old Geelong Gaol, launched at the weekend.

Geelong agents Colliers International listed the circa 1864 former prison complex in a two-stage expressions of interest campaign on behalf of the City of Greater Geelong. It will be sold with vacant possession.

Colliers, Geelong agent Andrew Lewis says at least six local parties, including three of five local property developers that were keen to buy the site prior to the campaign, have already flagged their intention to bid for the property.

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Lewis has previously told the Advertiser he knows of at least four local parties — all developers or hospitality operators, that would be keen to buy it.

Old Geelong Gaol

Geelong’s council is open to proposals to redevelop the old Geelong Gaol, while retaining the heritage-listed prison.

He says the council is involved in the two-stage sale process in vetting proposals against a set of heritage guidelines to seek an outcome beneficial to the community.

Buyers with proposals the council considered satisfactory will be short-listed before price comes into the equation, he says.

“As long as we get to a point where we’ve got a couple of proposals that we’re happy with and their intentions are clear and they understand they’ll look after the building going forward by way of a schedule of maintenance, then it will come down to the bidding,” Lewis says.

Old Geelong Gaol

The Old Geelong Gaol provides 3993sq m of developable land close to Geelong’s main public hospital and city centre.

A heritage guideline report would provide a framework for buyers, but parties could negotiate with the council to seek an outcome, he says.

“Obviously, complete demolition is never going to be an option. And substantial variation of the cell block isn’t really an option either,” Lewis says.

“But the block has additional buildings added over the years and we can look at those being removed, demolished or altered.

“There’s a lot of land there and a lot of land that isn’t be used by the cell block that could be used.”

Old Geelong Gaol

An internal area within the Old Geelong Gaol.

The site measures 9423sqm, with a potential development area of 3993sqm with a Residential Growth zoning.

It’s a similar sale process used by St Mary’s Parish when it sold the heritage-listed St Mary’s Hall and former school site in 2009 by vetting tenders on the net community benefit before accepting a bid from Common Equity Housing Ltd, which planned to build up to 150 apartments in two parcels around the heritage-listed school building and hall.

“We don’t want to be touching the heritage buildings, but you’ve got additional land to work on,” Lewis says.

Old Geelong Gaol

Some notorious characters have frequented these cells.

Lewis won’t reveal a price guide for the site.

“The council hasn’t asked us to value the asset. They’ve got valuations of their own,” Lewis says.

“They’ve said their goal is not to maximise the sale value but rather to maximise the outcome for the community going forward.”

But he adds that selling the gaol will also eliminate a significant liability on the council’s finances.

The council has previously estimated the maintenance backlog for the gaol is at least $1.56 million.

This article from the Geelong Advertiser was originally published as “City Hall seeks to okay plans as the Old Geelong Gaol goes on sale”.