Twenty-six years on from the closure of HM Prison Pentridge, TFE Hotels turns the page on an altogether different chapter at the historic Coburg site.

Transforming a 170-year-old building into a modern accommodation offering is bound to present a variety of challenges. When that building is the site of a former maximum-security prison that housed some of Australia’s most infamous criminals – that’s another level of complexity entirely.

The redevelopment of the former HM Prison Pentridge is one of the largest bluestone restoration projects ever undertaken in Australia and one of just 40 prison hotel conversions worldwide.

Adina Pentridge Melbourne GM Jesse Kornoff

Owned and developed by Shayher Group and operated by TFE Hotels, the now billion-dollar lifestyle precinct includes the 106-key Adina Apartment Hotel Pentridge, 19-suite boutique accommodation offering The Interlude, North and Common restaurant, Olivine wine bar, and Chapter Place events venue.

An urban retreat

The Interlude presents a truly unique accommodation offering. With its vaulted ceilings, bluestone walls, heavy wooden doors and metal rail windows, The Interlude embraces its history rather than shies away from it.  

“We set about creating something unique and travel worthy here in Coburg,” General Manager, Jesse Kornoff, told HM.

“It’s the first development of its kind in suburban Melbourne and it’s the only urban retreat in a prison setting that we know of.”

Its 19 suites were created by connecting old prison cells from the former B Division and converting them into intimate and modern spaces with contemporary furnishings and finishes.

With no blueprints to work from, extreme care, innovative thinking and plenty of time was needed to transform the historic building into a ‘one-of-a-kind’ accommodation offering.

In-room air conditioning, for example, needed to be installed under the beds instead of the heavy rock ceilings, which were originally designed to prevent inmate escapes.

Each suite – which involved knocking the thick bluestone walls of four to five prison cells – took around nine months to create, while a dimly-lit subterranean swimming pool took three months to dig out.

Locally-led experiences

On arrival, after entering through an impressive porte-cochère, guests are met at the reception desk by The Interlude hosts who ask them about what they want to get out of their stay and make recommendations on activities they might enjoy.

“That’s really what The Interlude is about – the place in between moments,” Kornoff said.

Partnering with local producers and businesses, including chocolatier Koko Black, tea retailer Impala and Peacock (tea) and urban winery Jamsheed, The Interlude offers a curated selection of signature experiences that allow visitors to make the most of the food, wine, and culture on offer in the area.

“We worked with local tea house to put together our tea selection here but also to offer a tea blending experience so guests can make their own tea blend to take home,” Kornoff said.

“We also have an art curator on the staff, who has put together 70 pieces of local art that showcase community artists and tell the story of emerging artists. There are two pieces in every guest room and all the pieces are available for sale.”

Guests can opt to take self-guided visits to the precinct’s onsite art gallery, learn pottery with local artist Robert Gordon, Time Travel with Wine led by Sommelier Liinaa Berry, and delve into the history of the site through an audio tour.

“It’s an opportunity to try some things that they’ve never tried before,” Kornoff said.

“We worked with the National Trust to put together an immersive history tour, narrated by Uncle Jack Charles who spent time at the prison.

“From a sustainability perspective, it’s about adaptive reuse and cultural preservation in terms of stories.”

Those in search of quiet time can enjoy the candlelit underground relaxation space where they can swim in the pool, spray sensorial mists, and enjoy a tea, kombucha or a wellness platter, among other wellness offerings.

The former ‘airing’ yard – the site of one of two panopticons on the site – has been transformed into a Reflection Garden offering a tranquil green space for guests to relax or connect with others.

Bringing the outside in

Food and beverage is a key element of the overall experience at the Pentridge precinct with three commercial kitchens on site to service its guests, the public as well as private events. 

North and Common restaurant, located in the original annex building, features original bluestone walls and 10-metre-high ceilings, complete with restored cross timber.

It offers elevated neighbourhood dining across an indoor and outdoor space – including a private dining area – and can cater to up to 200 people.

Olivine Wine Bar, located within the former B division, offers an intimate cellar experience with cosy nooks decked out with plush and moody furnishings. It is available to The Interlude guests during the day and opens to the public from 5pm.

Nearby, the former prison chapel has been transformed into a 250-square-metre events space with a separate entrance, allowing partygoers or conference delegates, whatever the case may be, to come and go without interfering with The Interlude experience.