21 July 2015

A 10-Point Primer on the Current Boggo Road Situation

A July 2015 overview on what is happening at Brisbane’s Boggo Road Gaol and the buildings and tours there.
Artist's impression, Boggo Road Gaol.
The Boggo Road Gaol Historical Society has recently encountered a deal of public confusion regarding the future of Boggo Road. As with an earlier outbreak this year, we are not sure if this is a case of clickbait journalism or certain people running deliberate interference to promote their own agenda.

What we have heard this week is some people saying that there won't be tours at Boggo in the future, or that the place is being knocked down.

I have compiled a 10-point list below that covers the overall situation.

In a nutshell, the heritage prison will close later this year, and then be refurbished and reopened properly. Some of the proposed structural changes were discussed in this article. There will still be tours in the prison in future, with the addition of a museum and other new visitor services. The historic buildings and services should be greatly improved after refurbishment so we in the BRGHS recommend waiting until then to see Boggo.

As I understand it, the big picture looks like this:

  1. The heritage-listed Boggo Road prison reserve is owned by the Queensland Government and managed by the Department of Housing and Public Works. 
  2. The working prisons were decommissioned during the 1980s-1990s and most buildings were subsequently demolished. The surviving red-brick prison is heritage listed. 
  3. That prison operated successfully as a heritage site, run by non-for-profit groups, until 2005 when it was temporarily closed due to surrounding construction works, including the Busway Tunnel. 
  4. In 2011, Leighton Properties were awarded a tender to develop the overall reserve. In addition to the existing Ecoscience building and Leukaemia Foundation facilities, new structures will include around 500 residential apartments and various retail outlets. 
  5. Part of the prison reopened on an interim basis in 2012. Premier Campbell Newman made a private and controversial deal to hand commercial control to a small tour business. Community groups were priced out of Boggo. 
  6. Calile Malouf Investments are currently developing a reuse plan for the prison buildings and immediate surrounds. This is still in the preliminary stage of assessment by the Queensland Government. 
  7. This plan will see part of the prison set aside for historical interpretation and Arts events. Other areas will be used for dining facilities. An indoor market hall will be constructed adjacent to (outside) the prison. 
  8. This plan proposes the removal of some of the newer (1980s) prison structures in the northeast corner. The original red-brick buildings - including all three cellblocks - will remain and be refurbished. 
  9. It is possible that the development plans could be approved later this year, after a period of public consultation. The part of the prison currently open will close in November. Refurbishment will commence upon approval of the plans. It is hoped that this work will be completed by the end of next year. 
  10. When the prison reopens there will still be historical tours there and improved visitor services such as a museum. Different organisations are interested in managing or providing services in the historical section of the prison in future. This includes the Boggo Road Gaol Historical Society and partner organisations. It is anticipated that a tender process will determine who will provide tours etc. We understand that this decision will not be made the Queensland Government, but probably by the organisation managing the historical section. 

I hope this makes things clearer for any reader who wasn't sure about what is going on at Boggo. Hopefully the public consultation process will commence soon and then we can all get a clearer picture of the plans and what we think about them. Until then, I'd advise people to remember that tours will be running at Boggo for years into the future.

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