Beehive to open this year

Sharon Kemp | Bendigo Weekly | 06-May-2016

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As work starts on reshaping the 140-year-old former Bendigo Mining Exchange, the commissioned architect has confirmed the building’s ground floor will open by the end of the year housing food, beverage and lifestyle retailers and potentially a fresh produce market.

Work will continue on developing a bar, consulting rooms and an apartment upstairs.

A cellar on the ground floor near the Pall Mall entrance will be uncovered and revealed and the ground floor will be opened up by dismantling the copper shop fronts that are not an original feature of the building.

The Ballarat owners have hired architect Peter Williams, of Williams Boag Architects, whose work includes the revamp of the GPO building in Melbourne and design of the Howard Place Safe Transport Space in Bendigo.

Mr Williams is excited about the impact the re-imagined Mining Exchange space will have on Hargreaves Mall and Pall Mall to which it is connected. 

The exchange is one section of the Beehive building he said was a particularly good example of architect Charles Webb’s work.

At the height of the gold boom in the 1880s, stockbrokers in their upstairs offices took orders from clients downstairs.

In the 1920s and after a fire damaged sections, a ceiling was built between floors and shop fronts were constructed on the ground floor to create an arcade, known as Allan’s Walk.

For almost a century, those passing below could not know that above the ceiling was an atrium-like hall, naturally-lit through a glass roof, lined on both sides by arches through which were small offices of brokers, and book-ended by large rooms, facing Pall Mall by living areas.

Last week, street and mall access to the walk was blocked and the false ceiling was brought down exposing boards that will eventually be dismantled to re-expose the original void looking up to the historic metalwork and glass roof that was restored by the City of Greater Bendigo before the building was sold.

“I think it was good work by the council,” Mr Williams said.

“They have stabilised the building and put a stop to ongoing damage. They presented it as well as they could.”

Now it is up to Mr Williams and owner Brian Taylor to represent two heritage periods  – Victorian in the 1880s and early modernism in the 1920s – in sustainable and practical design.

Mr Taylor has a record of working with heritage buildings, having restored the George Hotel in
Ballarat.

Mr Williams said after exploratory work at the site, the next step would be to get National Trust approval for changes.

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