25/06/2018 - 15:56

Aegis facility revitalises heritage site

25/06/2018 - 15:56

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Sitting empty for three decades, the old Swanbourne Hospital site has been given a new lease of life, reopening as a high-end aged care residence and function venue.

Aegis facility revitalises heritage site
Kevin Brimblecombe says the opportunity to redevelop a heritage site piqued Aegis Aged Care’s interest in the properties. Photos: Ryan Ammon

Sitting empty for three decades, the old Swanbourne Hospital site has been given a new lease of life, reopening as a high-end aged care residence and function venue.

After five years and $35 million of restoration works, the heritage-listed buildings that once comprised the state’s largest psychiatric institute have reopened as Aegis Aged Care Group’s latest residence, complete with an adjoining function space.

An official opening ceremony was held on Saturday by the Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop

The 115-year-old buildings, renamed Montgomery House and Hall are located on a hill in Mount Claremont overlooking John XXIII College.

Montgomery House comprises 80 luxury aged care rooms with private ensuites, as well as various lounge areas, a cafe, theatre room and in-house hair salon.

The residence will provide 24-hour nursing care and onsite clinical services, including physiotherapy, occupational therapy and podiatry.

Montgomery Hall, a heritage-listed hall that adjoins Montgomery House, will be open to the wider community as a venue for weddings, corporate events or private functions, with seating for up to 150 people.

Conference meeting rooms are also available for hire, with Aegis setting up a separate entity to manage event bookings.

While there had been previous attempts to redevelop the site, with the heritage restoration aspect proving a challenge in the past, Aegis chief operating officer Kevin Brimblecombe said the company’s owner, Michael Cross, was specifically drawn to the heritage potential, with the business purchasing the site in 2012 for $6 million.  

The buildings fell into disuse in 1985, after the old Swanbourne Hospital (founded as the 'Claremont Hospital for the Insane' in 1903) closed down. 

“It was the opportunity to develop a heritage site that caught his attention, and the heritage challenge that sold him,” Mr Brimblecombe told Business News.

“The previous owners couldn’t get all of the development approvals they were looking for.

“With his (Mr Cross) approach to suggest an aged care facility, it met a lot of council ticks and resident concerns, and from a heritage point of view it very clearly preserved the heritage status of the building, so the heritage council was also very supportive.”

Aegis bought the site after Watersun Property Group had proposed a $50 million development, which included 34 apartments and the demolition of part of the buildings. The local council ruled against the proposal and the State Administrative Tribunal backed the council’s decision.

Mr Brimblecombe said where others were unable to bring commercial viability to the site, the Aegis proposal for aged care was a feasible fit, complementing the heritage while giving back to the community with a new event space, and engaging local residents throughout the development process.

“This project has been a labour of love with the highest quality of craftsmanship and restoration techniques used to pay respect to the history of the buildings and the site,” he said.

“Craftsmen have used the same techniques used by builders more than 100 years ago and every piece that was missing or damaged has been replicated to the highest possible quality.

“Termites had decimated the ceiling, that had to all be stripped out ... and all the tuckpointing on the bricks has been replaced.”

Aegis Aged Care engaged Perth-based Montague Grant Architects for the revamped design, and set up its own building company, Aegis Projects, to undertake construction work. 

The decision to establish its own construction arm was partly due to the nature of the project, particularly regarding uncertainty over build costs.

“If we tendered it would be incredibly expensive with too many contingencies; if we went with a cost-plus building contract, well, you never known where the end is with that,” Mr Brimblecombe said.

He said Aegis Projects would continue to operate, largely on the group’s smaller projects, including works on an old aged care facility in Kwinana.

Montgomery House is the group’s 28th facility, with three more projects in the Aegis pipeline.

“In 2002 there were about 400 beds in (our) portfolio, now it’s about 2,600,” Mr Brimblecombe said.

“On our current project plan, subject to government regulations, we’ll be looking at 5,000 beds in the next few years.”

Aegis is currently the state’s largest aged care provider, as ranked by total number of beds on the BNiQ Search Engine, with this $35 million project the latest in a string of investments in a growing sector, including Oryx Communities $12.5 million redevelopment of the Richardson Hotel into luxury aged care and the completion of Berrington Care Group’s $60 million Como facility last year.

The buildings fell into disrepair for more than 30 years. Photos: Marc Russo 

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