Raising the dead

CONCEPT images for a planned redevelopment of the heritage listed East Perth girls school, and surrounding sites, have been released. But first, hundreds of bodies in the old graveyard will need to be exhumed before work can start.

Sold by the state government mid-2017 for $5million the school was bought by local investor syndicate “Australian Development Capital” whose key player is the Perth-based Warburton Group.

On Saturday WA lands minister Rita Saffioti announced the same group had bought neighbouring site 20 Bronte Street for an as yet undisclosed sum.

The group plans to create a new mixed use East Perth precinct incorporating residential, retail and offices.

The old school building has been flagged by the new owners as the potential site of a community hub.

In a media statement Ms Saffioti said: “With this land sale, 20 Bronte Street, East Perth, currently a vacant block of land, will find new life with the iconic Old Perth Girls School as a mixed use, residential, retail, office accommodation and community space.

• Early concept plans for the East Perth blocks bought by ADC.

“The buyers have extensive experience with similar redevelopment projects, including a number of heritage properties within the Perth CBD.

“The property development team has a strong understanding of the heritage values of the property, and will respect the building’s history and heritage as part of the repositioning of the site as a residential, mixed use and community hub.”

There are potentially hundreds of bodies buried there. As a condition of the sale the remains will have to be exhumed and interred “in an ethical manner”.

Most of the 10,000 or so bodies buried in the East Perth cemetery (in use between 1830 and 1919) are across the other side of Plain Street, and much of it has already been built over.

In 2016 the Voice reported a push by local parents and Museum of Perth chair Reece Harley to return the building to its original use as an inner city school, but neither Labor nor the Libs were up for the idea.

The nearest primary school for East Perth kids remains Highgate PS, but parents say it’s an arduous journey through hellish traffic to get there.

ADC is the group behind the 101-room Sage Hotel on Hay Street in West Perth, and is also working on the Leadlight Hotel on the corner of Newcastle and Beaufort Street.

by DAVID BELL

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