A little charred, but Pearl Villa survives blaze

• Fragrance’s initial plans to preserve Pearl Villa and the facade of Hostel Milligan have not changed.

THE plan to preserve parts of the fire-damaged Hostel Milligan and the venerable Pearl Villa will go ahead unchanged by last week’s blaze. 

The building’s owner, Singapore-based Fragrance Group, got approval to build two towers on the site in April 2020. But they were required to keep the street-facing walls of the 1930s hostel, and to preserve the inner 1880s Pearl Villa.

A fire on March 22 sparked fears the old buildings might be done for, but the project’s Perth-based architect Laurie Scanlan tells us it hasn’t changed their plans. 

“The heritage work that we were going to do is on target,” he says.

Beams

“Fortunately the fire on Tuesday was caught early enough. We were probably half an hour away from losing the building.

“We’ve had our engineering checks, we’ve got a written report saying… there’s a couple of floor beams that’ve been charred. 

“We don’t want to load that floor, there’ll be a few timber beams to be replaced, but we’re very fortunate the damage wasn’t more extensive.”

• The historic facade hides an even older treasure inside.

A new start date for construction isn’t yet set, having been delayed due to flight restrictions. 

The fire and repeated presence of squatters in recent months led to questions about how secure the place was.

The heritage agreement signed between the owner, the WA Heritage Council and the City of Perth required the owner carry out weekly checks and keep the property secured.

Mr Scanlan says they’ve worked hard to adhere to that, spending thousands on security and measures to board it up.

“We’ve been trying our hardest to keep it secure to outside intruders,” he says. “We haven’t been able to do that very successfully.”

He says the intruders are determined. Locks have been broken off and had to be replaced every second or third week. 

“We’ve had security patrols… we’ve done everything we can to lock up the building.

“We’ll continue to do that and we’ll continue to monitor it.”

Police questioned a woman allegedly seen leaving the building around the time of the fire, but their investigation’s ongoing. 

by DAVID BELL

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