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apart from the shell, there wasn't much left:
but there was always my vision! 

In 2015 we embarked on what would be the biggest development / renovation project of our lives. In reality I had no idea of the size and complexity of the project I had just signed up to. In a sense this was a blessing, had I known the struggles ahead I would never have had the audacity to proceed.  However, today when I take a moment to appreciate where we are and what we achieved it simply takes my breath away. The Benev has giving us many gifts and most of them we never even expected.

In my mind I had purchased a beautiful red brick, oldish building perched high on a hill, it had ambience, the potential for the most exquisite accommodation,  gardens that you would get lost in and a divine space to heal and breathe. Of course, we needed to clean it up a bit, submit some permits to tell the shire what I was going to do and lastly call the bank manger to get some money: done! To add to the hugeness of this undertaking, the whole project was time sensitive, our lease where the spa was located expired in 2018 and current owners were unwilling to resign. 

 

Sooooo here was my actual  reality: I purchased land that housed a once beautiful building but now looked like the tip, I referred to it as 'The Hilton for the possums' and there were a lot of possums.  We didn't have permits, the asset was heavily protected by heritage Victoria with full internal and external controls, (meaning everything from the soil to the sky was protected) nothing could be done without first notifying them. Yep, I couldn't even clean up as even the rubbish was protected. I called builder after builder and when someone finally turned up they got straight back in their car without even a word. Now if that wasn't enough, the past owners where actually in breach for the demolition works they had completed without the appropriate permits, due to this the site had a 'stop work' notice with a 170K fine attached. Perhaps this was when I first really understood the term 'panic attack', it had taken me 8 months to convince my partner Kade this would be a good idea, "How do you not see my vision?" I would ask him. 

I know what you're thinking, and before you judge, I did actually do a lot of work prior to purchasing so I was not running completely blind. I had extensive meetings with Indigo Shire's planning department and their Heritage Consultant. I shared my vision and plans freely. So I guess you could call this lesson number one: You really don't know what you don't know, until you know!

 

I learned pretty quickly to pivot and actually, I pivoted so many times it probably looked like I was dancing. Breathing deeply; I approached the process with a different view. We began meetings with:

'Tell me what I need to do to move forward?'

'Why is that important for you?'

'Help me understand?'

And my personal favourite, 'Let me think about that and I will come back to you tomorrow.'

What all or any of this was about was sourcing information, finding the process and one by one ticking the boxes and moving forward. We finally found the money to secure the heritage bond; this is money in their account that you put forward in good faith. If you stuff up they use this money to make good at their discretion. Our first stage and before I could apply for the building permits was to make good, remove all rubble from the tip and a total of 27 ancillary buildings that over time had been built, mostly in the the centre of the site. Each brick sourced, cleaned and replaced, the foundation repaired, all mechanical services, rotted timber, plants, air conditioners, all gone. We now had a clean site, only the heritage building left. By the time we completed the demolition and received our building permit we had just 9 months left before our lease expired. And our last major hurdle, I need to rebuild this beast as an owner builder and project manage it myself. FAR OUT! I am exhausted just re living it with you.

By now I had Jasper 5, and Harper 8 months. I had a cot setup on the building site, juggled the kinder drop offs and pickups. Booked and managed the trades, continued sourcing baths, tiles, fabric, and everything in-between. Oh and on top of that, managing the other side business The Spa. To assume it was a slightly crazy time is an understatement. We where down to the last 2 weeks before relocation, there was more than 14 trades onsite and about 50+ people when I finally broke. A few of the boys went running to find Kade, they said "quick come, somethings wrong with Deb".

There I sat at the bottom of the stairs crying, he said whats wrong 'I cant do this is to much' I tried, its just to much presure'. his response are you frkn joking you just realised how big the project was wjay just now? me' yes and I dont think i can do it, i dont sleep, i dont eat my head hearts.' kade well sunshine your doing it imfact your nailing it, not even I could have pulled of what you have so tuffin the fck up and get on with it we have 2 weeks to go. And so I did I wipped the tears away and just went. We opened the doors just 2 days late, exhastered. I un fittered the old spa, sold everything and just like that another chaperter finished. 

But it wasnt over yet, we had only completed 1 section December 2018 we had our next blow, the floods no roads in no roads out and our christmas trade gone. 2019 we had firers but we kept going. Quitily and at a more managible pace we opened 2 accomadation rooms, the cafe and booked our first wedding March 2020. Oh and a little baby boy Banjo was born January. Our little family complete business ticking along at The Bneev and Kade had grown his buiness with 5 sparikies. Life busy but doable. So lets talk Covid. between 2020 to 2022 we were shut and managed only to opne a total of 13 weeks out of 104, Im in real confict about covid, it was a gift for the first time I had maternity leave I wasnt drapping a baby to work I slept when he did, and enjoyed every momnet but the presure of business was real. Unofrtentily we didnt get any govenment support  kades electrical business meant we didnt qualify and while I held onto the staff for as long as I could, I paid the morgage and well just hoped I would be ok.  When we re opened we really had nothing left, most of the staff had moved on people were hesident to book in advance waiting for the next lock down we still jucked the cross border issues and our reality was week by week. 

 

 

When things get tuff I usalyy start doing, moving my body with hard manual labour moving my focus from my very big busy brain. Yep I decided to put the energy into doing as much of the next 2 accomadation rooms myself. I stripped paintered, tilled and everything I could manage. Worked on new gardens and greatfully Kade's business supported us to just keep going. 

 

Today is a different story, as I embark on the next stage of the renovation, I have this deep knowing the Benev will continue to challenge me to the core, find deepth and resilence beyound words. Beechworth is a complicated little town but we celebrate our ongoing sucess since 2006.   things were looking up. 

DESIGN _ HEADING

Our design always celebrated the sites history, in fact in building the future we repaired the past by putting each brick back, relaying the foundation and allowing a new journey for this beautiful site. The design challenge was to repurpose a building with a new use but the rastraints where huge. To penitrate a wall was a massive argument, I spent night after night designing a foot print that utalised the exsistening walls but functioned first as the spa. I always wonted our design to  returned the buildings back to its original fabric. Celebrating the wormanship of 1861, i was in aur of. the spectacular granit to be uncovered, highlighting the brick design, the detail yet simplicity in the timber ceiling all spoke of importance. Ancillary buildings, a total of 27 were removed. We recrafted the orginal ceiling Where possible the original ceilings and walls would be reconditioned to give the full spatial and textural quality of these significant spaces internally and maintain the grandeur of the facility externally. This meant all modern mechanical, electrical and plumbing services that where hidden by suspended ceiling needed to be reinstated through a triple brick in this heritage listed building, adding another layer of complexity.

 

Any new works needed to be appropriately contrasting to ensure the whole history of the building is evident. We proposed a design that returned the original hospital spatial arrangement: where wards were private secluded spaces, connected by an external veranda with a central landscaped courtyard. In the new development the treatment spaces, like the wards, have been largely located on the south facing side whilst the accommodation, dining and pre and post waiting spaces have been located more on the north. This ensures the spaces which require natural light and connection to ground level external space get it, whilst spaces that require more privacy and seclusion are appropriately located as well.

The concept of having north facing external space for patients to go out into is maintained in the new spa with the incorporation of a new central landscaped courtyard. The central courtyard will return to the site as a major feature of the facility. The use of the central courtyard will be extended from simply being visual component and will also include broader uses for the whole facility. Adjacent to the spa, the gardens will feature plunge pools and private courtyards for guests. Seating spaces will be provided outside the dining areas for people to sit amongst vegetable and herb gardens. The accommodation will have private gardens running along the north.

 

LOW IMPACT PLANNING

Mezzanines have been designed respectfully to ensure a view line to the ceiling features and showcase the grandeur of the building. There where only 2 internal wall to be penetrated, they were essential to the overall reuse of the building and is the most unobtrusive way of readapting.

We left no stone unturned and everything was was considered in the design and vision of the precinct. Always at the forfront of my thinking was the breathtaking architecture of the building. Remembering the building was built in 1862, the workmanship and skills still takes me by surprise. I purchased in 2015, it took almost 2 years to gain permits and comply with the heritage 'make good' of the then derelict building.  To date, just over $1.5M capital expenditure has been invested in this tourism focused Precinct.

 

The precinct is a redevelopment of an iconic heritage asset, constituting more than eight significant buildings, built over 4 acres of elevated real estate. Boasting some of the most unique architecture of its time, Heritage listed (VHR - H1510), the former ‘Ovens & Murray Hospital for the Aged’ is layered with a rich history and is prized among many locals as an absolute place of benevolence.

in 1862 The Benevolent Asylum was built as a gift and refuge to people in need. In its formative years as the ‘Ovens Benevolent Asylum’, it extended its operations and stretched its capacity to house mining orphans, and was the only institution to reach out and treat the Chinese miners in a time of extreme prejudice and abuse. The site has been an icon of restoration, wellness, equality and leadership for generations and we hope to continue that legacy as we breathe new life into it.

 

The redevelopment vision:                                                                                                                                                                            

The Precinct will be comprised of purpose-built structures, along with sensitive re-use of the existing Heritage assets, to create a truly welcoming and inspiring experience. An enticing 'experience based offer' of businesses will be accommodated in the development with all tenants within the precinct committing to the site culture and exceptional customer service.  This level of commitment and diversity will provide a new model for the tourism development of a heritage site in a regional destination.  Where possible, connections between the township and the site will be established along with encouraging regional exploration and dispersal.

the power of

HARMONIOUS

 DESIGN

Design has a profound impact on the guest experience, dancing with senses and emotions from the moment one passes through a threshold until long after they depart; it is much more than merely an aesthetic discipline. Structural materials, furniture, lighting, colours, textures, sounds, scents and even the way one moves through a space all have the power to evoke emotions and leave a lingering impression. Composing these elements with a keen eye for details and balance without clutter and distraction creates a welcoming symphony of pleasure and serenity for our guests.

the BENEV features a harmonious and thoughtful design

with the intention to evoke these emotions at countless touch points throughout your stay.

along the journey  

More than 200 trade worked to put it back together.

That equated to ..................... hours and we are still going.

27 buildings were removed

...... tone of concrete removed

....... km of cable was laid

....... litres of paint used 

 ..... tonnes of dirt bought in

more than 5000 plants have been planted.

Kade and I were raising our 3 boys through the whole renovation, moving home once in the mix too.

We found ourselves having to continually justify and explain this process and vision to some that could not visualise it or did not share our confidence that we could do this.

The best thing that come of this is the big black fence that now surrounds our beautiful established precinct, providing a sanctuary to what we have created and blocking out any white noise.

 

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