Innovative adaptive re-use of historic warehouse opens the building up to a new lease of life

The reworking of Fremantle's Dalgety Wool Stores into Heirloom apartments not only preserves the heritage building, it brings its character features to the fore

Built in 1922, the Dalgety Wool Stores is apartment, architecture, brick, building, commercial building, condominium, elevation, facade, home, landmark, mixed use, neighbourhood, property, real estate, residential area, window, teal
Built in 1922, the Dalgety Wool Stores is an historically significant building on Fremantles eastern gateway. An innovative adaptive re-use project has seen it converted to the Heirloom apartment development that makes the most of its character features.

When the recent drive to increase the number of inner city residential units began a couple of decades ago, historical buildings were often in the demolition spotlight. Though located in prime positions, they were deemed expensive to renovate, with no easy way for developers to maximise returns by packing units into the available space.

Luckily, not all of those heritage buildings fell victim to the wreckers ball, and some are again being considered for adaptive reuse.

One such prominent building on Fremantle's eastern gateway is Dalgety Wool Stores, recently converted to Heirloom apartments by Match.

Match parent company M/Group managing director Lloyd Clark says the Wool Stores were one of Western Australia's most recognised buildings.

"Although a significant development challenge, the inherent classic warehouse form was proving extremely popular across Australia as an apartment environment," says Clark.

"The features of the building were such that you could not replicate them in any new apartment project. They were part of the building's structure and heritage, and the prospect of incorporating them into apartment buyers' homes was just an enormous opportunity."

But the biggest challenge in undertaking the conversion was still the commercial viability.

"By their very nature, heritage buildings are expensive to adapt and reuse, so finding a way to do that while maintaining viability was critical," he says. "But at the same time, retaining, reusing and capitalising on the existing fabric was a priority."

Three double loaded blocks of apartments have been architecture, building, daylighting, lobby, mixed use, real estate, gray, white
Three double loaded blocks of apartments have been inserted into the Dalgety Wool Stores building. For the facade blocks, the outer apartments have street frontages, while the inner ones face into the atriums.

Working with architects Cameron Chisholm Nicol, Match went through a number of iterations for the project including looking at adding an extra floor to increase the number of apartments.

"However, from a heritage point of view, this would have been extremely invasive, as well as structurally catastrophic."

Instead, Match took the unusual approach of working within the building's existing structure. While this significantly reduced the number of apartments, it also reduced construction costs.

Cameron Chisholm Nicol associate director Deborah Binet says that the 1922 building was of historical significance and had a number of attractive features including the heritage brick facades as well as the internal timber columns, beams and struts spanning quite long distances.

"It was structurally very sound, but it was very dilapidated, with most of it having been empty for several years," Binet says.

While the brickwork and columns needed some remedial work, and patches of floorboards needed replacing, it was the process of incorporating the 183 apartments into the original structure that was the real design challenge.

"We started by inserting three apartment blocks into the large, square floorplate," she says. "Then, by removing sections of roof sheets and floorboards, we cut two atriums into the space. That allowed us to get natural light into the centre of the development and into all the apartments."

Apartment set-out was determined by the location of the existing jarrah columns a complex task due to many of the structural elements not being square. Double loading the apartments in each block meant they all have balconies, providing either external or atrium views.

Apartments inserted into the Dalgety Wool Stores make bed frame, bedroom, floor, furniture, home, interior design, living room, room, wall, window, gray
Apartments inserted into the Dalgety Wool Stores make the most of the buildings original brick structure and jarrah beams.

The drive to make the most of the existing character features included the floorboards.

"The timber floors were all restored and we wanted to make sure they were visible. By building a new floor over the top, we could accommodate all the services and also provide the required fire rating and acoustic separation between apartments.

"But the existing floors were then left exposed as the ceiling for the apartment below."

While the ceilings are 3.6m high, all interior walls are offset from the existing columns and stop at 2.4m, being either open above or glazed. This allows clear views of the timber ceiling and facilitates maximum light penetration.

On both facades, existing window openings had to be retained. New aluminium windows were inserted for the apartments' interiors, while window openings to balconies were left unglazed to create protected outdoor space. On the Queen Victoria Street facade, new openings on the top floor were left frameless to distinguish them from the original windows.

Lloyd Clark says boutique, limited property has an intrinsic value that's beyond market comparison.

"When you add in an historical significance that demands the level of attention that Heirloom does, it's hard to put a price on that regardless of where we are on the property cycle."

Credit list

Heirloom apartments, former Dalgety Wool Stores
Match, part of M/Group
Heritage architect
Hocking Heritage Studio
Construction company
Quantity surveyor
Ralph Beattie Bosworth
Glazing system
Jason Windows
Lift services
LG reverse cycle split system
Kitchen cabinets
Polytech, JHW
Laminam, Quantum Quartz
Fremantle, WA
Cameron Chisholm Nicol
Heritage consultant
Herring Storer Acoustics
BCA certifier
Milestone Certifiers
Greg Rowe & Associates; MW Urban
Public area flooring
Corridor carpets Interface; atrium tiles DAmelio Stone
Apartment interior design and kitchen design
Cameron Chisholm Nicol
Corian, Quantum Quartz

Story by: Paul Taylor

Photography by: Greg Hocking

21 Dec, 2017

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