From 70s office block to hotel

From 70s office block to hotel

An empty and unwanted former office building in Woden has just started its new life as a modern hotel.

Juliana House, the former home several government departments has been transformed in an adaptive re-use project by Canberra developers Geocon.

The 11-story 1970s office block is now the company's third Abode hotel in addition to sites at Tuggeranong and Gungahlin.

The building is on track to become the first Green Star-rated hotel by the Green Building Council of Australia.

The $31.5 million project was completed within six months and opened two weeks ago.


Managing director Nick Georgalis said he had targeted the Woden town centre as the base for an innovative project and had come across the office block, which had been vacant for a few years.

The company purchased the building in July 2012 for $7.5 million.

Mr Georgalis said when he had first walked into the office block all of the furniture remained and calendars, pens and note paper were still on desks.

“It was as if there was a fire alarm and everyone had just left,” he said.

Mr Georgalis said the office furniture went to Ex-Government Furniture and the company was able to recycle almost everything else.

Geocon kept the building façade, roof and glazing and former staff may also recognise the stone cladding and elevators.

The 150-room hotel is becoming popular with travellers and will hit 65-70 per cent booked during the weekend.

There is also a restaurant in the works which will be opened at a later date.

Mr Georgalis said the approval process and “dragging it over the line” had been the greatest challenges for the project despite having the support of the ACT government.

The company is waiting on a decision by the ACT Planning and Land Authority for its ambitious plan to build Canberra's tallest tower in Belconnen – which will include a fourth hotel.

A spokeswoman for the authority said a decision on this project was “imminent”.

Geocon is targeting Civic as the next possible location for an extension to the brand and another adaptive re-use project is a possibility.


“We have that experience now and I hope that the market recognises that and presents more opportunities for us to consider,” Mr Georgalis said.

The hotel conversion took about 8000 square metres out of the office block vacancy market.

Meredith Clisby is the Editor of the Sunday Canberra Times

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