Vandalism rife at Bendigo's old Gillies factory

BUSINESS owners and residents near the old Gillies factory in Garsed Street are furious about the amount of vandalism and crime committed at the abandoned site.

Nearby business owner Michael Panayi said he had called the police eight times in the past three months to report trespassing youths.

He said one time he called an ambulance for a boy who cut his face while climbing to the top floor of the building, which was damaged by a fire in July. Mr Panayi feared it was only a matter of time before someone else was badly injured.

“Kids climb out and punch out the windows, shattering them down to the street,” he said.

“One time I saw a person walking past a minute before a glass pane fell onto the pavement.”

Mr Panayi said the police at the scene were unable to arrest the youths because they were not present when the crimes were committed. “It’s out of control. It’s getting worse every month,” he said.

“It’s an inconvenience to my business.

“When you look at the rest of Bendigo, people think they’ve come to the end of the world here. It’s a ghetto.”

Bendigo CFA has listed the factory as a high-risk area, after a number of reported fires inside the empty building.

The factory is currently on the market for $1.35 million.

City of Greater Bendigo place manager Philip DeAraugo said it could take years for a redevelopment of the factory to take place.

The council envisaged a mix of offices, residential apartments and some retail shops, such as a supermarket, would fill the space.

He said the council was in the process of changing planning controls on the building to increase retail floor space availability from 500 square metres up to 8000.

This process alone can take up to two years to be approved. 

Mr DeAraugo said he hoped increasing the amount of retail space would make the property more appealing to buyers.

He said restrictions on changing the facade of the building were  not affecting its sale.

“It’s a really big site; two city blocks in total, including the Gillies factory and Crystal Ice,” he said. 

“It’s going to be a long-term project. We’ll be unlikely to see too much happening on it for a few years.”

Mr DeAraugo said it was up to the two current landowners to secure the site and remove graffiti and hazardous material. 


There is one interested buyer looking to take over the old Gillies factory site in Garsed Street, but developers will have to comply with council guidelines on keeping the building’s historic facade.

Real estate agent First National said talks were ongoing with one party that showed interest at the auction of the site in April.

Commercial and industrial estate agent Tom Harrop said the site was continuing to be reviewed.

“The interested group are doing their homework,” he said.

“Obviously they’ve got to do costings on demolition. But they can’t tear it down because the council has indicated that the two brick facades must be maintained.”

The vacant factory was declared a high-risk area by Bendigo CFA after attracting a high level of vandalism and arson, including a fire in the basement in July. 

Mr Harrop said the empty site was valued about $1.25 million, but was a fairly difficult site to work with.

City of Greater Bendigo place manager Philip DeAraugo said the council was working to attract interest from buyers.

“We are getting on the front foot to see how we can maximise the potential of these sites and avoid having them sitting empty for too much longer,” he said.

One of the council’s principles on development is retaining the building’s facade and Mr DeAraugo said the council was unlikely to change this position. 

“It is expected that this will provide an opportunity to create a visible link from the building’s past through to its new use, whether that is for commercial, residential or a mixture of activities,” he said. 

“It is likely that the majority of buildings on both the Gillies and Crystal Ice sites will be demolished over time, given they are mostly sheds and warehouses, and will be replaced by a number of buildings that include a mix of retail, offices and apartments to cater for our growing population and the great CBD fringe location.”

Mr Harrop said First National was optimistic the interested buyer would develop the site. 

Otherwise it would be opened up again to the broader market later in the year.

OUTRAGED: Local business owner Michael Panayi outside the old Gillies factory.  Pictures: Brendan McCarthy

OUTRAGED: Local business owner Michael Panayi outside the old Gillies factory. Pictures: Brendan McCarthy