Investors to reveal old Beechworth gaol’s ‘broad’ plans at community briefing

INVESTORS: The group which combined to purchase the old Beechworth gaol for $2.5 million.
INVESTORS: The group which combined to purchase the old Beechworth gaol for $2.5 million.

The old Beechworth Gaol courtyard will be full once again on Monday, but with members of the public – not inmates.

More than 170 people have registered and about 200 were expected to attend the first community briefing, run by the consortium which took on the project.

The 49 investors, who combined to invest $2.5 million to buy the old gaol, publicly revealed themselves for the first time two weeks ago.

The group’s representative Matt Pfahlert said the meeting was the first chance to introduce themselves, with most of the investors to be there amongst the crowd.

“That’s really to give the community an understanding of our ideas and our plan for the site, in broad brushstrokes,” he said.

“We are keen to hear from the community.”

Mr Pfahlert will talk about the “social enterprise” business model, where profits were put back into the cause, and take questions from the community.

Abbotsford Convent director Libby Ward-Christie, who also ran a social enterprise model, will be in Beechworth to explain the parallels between the projects.

Ms Christie and Mr Pfahlert were linked through the board of Social Traders, a group set up to work with projects like their own.

While the community will get the chance to hear ideas, the consortium was not ready to reveal specifics of the project.

The masterplan will take about 12 to 18 months to complete.

“This is a very ambitious project,” Mr Pfahlert said.

“This is something that takes time, it’s not something you can get up the next day.”

His financial investment in the gaol came through his organisation, the Australian Centre for Rural Entrepreneurship, which aimed to educate students about creating jobs and business.

The centre planned to move its base to the old gaol.

Investors had already won the support of Indigo mayor Jenny O’Connor, who said it could improve the town’s tourism and economic development.

“This venture is really exciting and will add so much momentum and vibrancy to our town and our region,” she said.