Developers share vision for Old Castlemaine Gaol

DEVELOPERS of the Old Castlemaine Gaol say they want to open the building up for performances and events.

The Castlemaine businessmen said they’re planning long-term developments to convert the site into a multi-purpose facility with a reception centre.

Settlement on the sale was passed this week after the heritage-listed building was sold by Mount Alexander Shire to private hands in September.

One of the jail’s new owners, Don Culvenor, said they were looking at a range of ways to use the space. “The ambition at this stage is a reception centre,” he said. “We would have large events and conferences, there’s room for gallery space and office space. It’s going to be multi-purpose.”

Mr Culvenor said there were plans to develop residential properties on the site.

“That’s the strategy, the value is in the land itself. We’ll look at building serviced apartments. But we have no intention of blocking the historic views.”

Mr Culvenor said three architects had been approached for concept plans but the jail’s heritage listing meant any developments would be a long-term process. He said the estimated budget of the project would be about $10 million to $12 million over the next 10 years.

The Old Castlemaine Gaol was decommissioned in 1990 and has been vacant since training provider CVGT ended its lease two years ago. 

Mr Culvenor, along with partners Trevor Butcher and the McClure family, admitted their purchase had faced some resistance in the community. A group of more than 100 objectors met with council before the sale to voice their concern.

Earlier this month another petition was put to the new councillors to reverse the decision and block any developments. Co-owner Callum McClure said a lot of the opponents to development had been misinformed.

“As our vision becomes more concrete we’re hoping the community comes on board. We’d like to have people involved if they want to share ideas on how to use the site,” he said. The jail has already been booked to stage two shows as part of next year’s Castlemaine State Festival.

The jail site will be open to the public to watch New Year’s Eve fireworks. 

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