- A former gaol has been purchased from the NSW government by a developer for $7 million
- The transaction follows an extensive Expressions of Interest process
- The buyers, Blue Sox Group, have plans for a boutique hotel
A 183-year-old former gaol in the Southern Highlands will be redeveloped into a unique hotel and entertainment precinct after being acquired by Blue Sox Group.
Minister for Planning and Minister for Homes Anthony Roberts described the sale of the former Berrima Correctional Centre for $7 million as an outstanding result despite price expectations initially projected at up to $10 million.
The development plans have been met with some resistance from the Berrima community.
Berrima Correctional Centre has a rich history. It was initially established as Berrima Gaol after being built by convicts in the 1830s.
Minister for Corrections Geoff Lee said that consideration of the historical and cultural importance of the site was crucial for the winning proposal.
“The Berrima Correctional Centre opened in 1839 and had many uses, including being
a German prison camp during World War I, a training centre, and minimum-security prison for men that was later converted to also accommodate women,” he said.
“The NSW Government retired the correctional centre in 2020 and I’m excited to see
how the site will be transformed,” Mr Lee said.
Mr Roberts has reiterated that careful consideration of heritage significance to the local
the community will be made.
The 1.9-hectare site will be entirely transformed by the new owner, Blue Sox Group. The group is owned by Joe Wehbe who is known as a property developer and along with his reputation as a ‘football whisperer’ from his involvement in the NRL.
According to the NSW Government, the proposal from Blue Sox Group was selected above others as it is to bring the most significant social, economic and cultural benefits to Berrima and the Southern Highlands region.
“The proposal incorporates a boutique hotel whilst retaining the beautiful grounds of
the estate, and will include café, restaurant, bar, community and event areas, and
spaces which will cater for small business opportunities such as antique and book
shops, personal services, art galleries, library and museum,” Mr Roberts said.
Community resistance against development started when the Berrima Correctional Facility was first put up for sale in 2021. The Berrima Residents Association in particular has raised concerns about what the site falling into private ownership could mean for the building’s preservation.
Since the sale was announced the Berrima Residents Association has actively opposed the development.
Member for Goulburn Wendy Tuckerman has assured residents that Property and Development NSW (PDNSW) conducted a rigorous Expressions of Interest (EOI) process.
“I am confident the EOI criteria was structured to ensure the successful proponent
delivered a strong proposal that provided a broad range of social, economic and
cultural benefits for Berrima and the Southern Highlands and that the community will
embrace the vision the proponent has for this significant property,” Ms Tuckerman
Blue Sox Group are to work with the community, local Indigenous groups and the
Local Aboriginal Land Council on collaborative ideas to preserve and celebrate the
wider site’s heritage.
The State heritage-listed buildings on the site have the highest protections in place
and will be preserved and protected.
Registration of a subdivision plan for the site is anticipated in mid-2022. This will mean the sale of the former correctional centre to be completed and Government ownership of the land along the Wingecarribee River will be retained.