Before and After: refurbishing a warehouse

Back in 2007 I was wandering along Adderley Street in West Melbourne on my way to V/Line’s Dudley Street carriage sidings, when I took a photograph of this random warehouse for reasons that I can no longer recall. (I presume the “Public Office” text was what caught my eye.)

Before: "Public Office" at 100 Adderley Street, West Melbourne

Four years on the seasons have changed, and so has the warehouse.

After: new Australian Red Cross Blood Service offices at 100 Adderley Street, West Melbourne

The bricks scrubbed clean, and brand new windows installed.

Corner of Dudley and Adderley Street, West Melbourne: new offices for the Australian Red Cross Blood Service

The warehouse was built in 1925 by the Melbourne Motor Body and Assembling Co, occupying the entire block between Batman Street and Dudley Street.

SLV photo H92.20/3536

The building was one of the first ‘modern’ car factories in Australia.

An interesting and unusual feature in the lay-out of the factory is the absence of lifts, though the building is one of three stories. The necessity for lifts is avoided by the use of well-planned ramps, which make it possible to move a car under its own power, if desired from the bottom floor to the top.

On the chassis conveyor the assembling is done stage by stage, as the chassis are carried slowly forward on rollers. The heavier parts of the equipment are delivered by travelling trollies suspended from overhead gear. All hand tools such is drills, spanners, riveters, and screw drivers are driven by compressed air.

The company was renamed Ruskin Motor Bodies in 1930, and acquired by the Austin Motor Company in 1948, who vacated the site in 1954 following the completion of a larger plant at Victoria Park in Sydney.

In later years the building became a nightclub and bar called “Public Office”, as this 7 February 1999 review from the The Sunday Age writes:

Perched as it is in backwater West Melbourne, between Spencer Street and Dudley Street in the shadow of the Remand Centre, the Public Office is as hard to define as it is to find. “We call ourselves a Bronze Wing lounge as opposed to a Golden Wing lounge,” laughs co-owner James Legge, of the hip architectural firm Six Degrees. “You can check your email, send a fax, make phone calls, have a meeting, eat and look at some art while you wait.”

The Public Office opened up in 1997 with no fanfare. The intriguing decor is similarly no-frills, made up of surplus office furniture and oddities, such as the bank of derelict 1970s TV monitors near the bar. Drinks-wise it’s the same idea – just the basics. But that’s the appeal. The owners, though, hesitate before calling their creation a bar. “It’s a hybrid,” says James Legge. “A canteen, an office, an art gallery and a bar.” The crowd is a certain type: artists, architects, students, writers and multimedia people. You could stroll in here wearing a gorilla suit and most people would just assume you were a conceptual artist.

Good for: Impressing (or baffling) interstate mates.

Hosting warehouse parties up until 2006.

Public holidays and huge dance parties go hand in hand in Melbourne. Details are now coming in on the slew of parties that will be happening over the Easter long weekend. On of these is Future Entertainment’s Mischief party on Good Friday, 14 April 2006, at the Public Office featuring Felix Da Housecat, Audio Bullys and Sharam Jey.

The building was was sold in April 2005 for $8.2 million, and again in March 2010 for $38.5 million.

Refurbishment work commenced soon after, converting the warehouse into the new head office of the Australian Red Cross Blood Service for Victoria and Tasmania. The work was completed in May 2011 across the basement and three main floors, featuring offices, cool and freezer rooms, warehousing and laboratories.

Lab techs at work processing incoming blood


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3 Responses to “Before and After: refurbishing a warehouse”

  1. Shane says:

    Good to read this article, have been past this building many times as a kid in the 70s.
    I have recently bought a Crossley Regis that was manufactured at Ruskin Bodyworks, surprised to learn where Ruskin were and amazed that the building is still there.

  2. Shannon says:

    I lived in that building for some years. We had a nice little studio warehouse in the old executive offices for the Austin motor company. I’ve got lots of photos happy to send to post here!

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