Our Renovation Story..
Luke's thoughts to open a Bicycle Shop & Cafe in Warrnambool started to turn from dream to reality in early 2015.. With quite a few ideas in mind, we started doing a bit more research that also included looking at several similar businesses around Australia.
The ideas grew a bit more rapidly when we saw the empty building at 85 Liebig Street and thought this would be an ideal property in an ideal location! We purchased the building in late 2015...
In early 2016 we started to demolish the interior of the property. Mid year this came to a standstill as we awaited finalisation of our plans and permits. At this time we started to feel a pressure in demand for great bike sales & service in the local area - so we streamlined ahead with tidying up the Downstairs Basement, that didn't need any major structural work, and opened the basement Bike Shop to the public in December 2016.
After much deliberation and a lot of back & forth, our plans & permits for renovations to 85 Liebig Street were finally approved this month.
This has paved the way for us to re-enter "renovation phase".. and as only few know, Luke is a builder - this is his project.. and to fulfil these major renovations as smoothly as possible he needs to concentrate full-time on building, not bikes.. (this will be hard - he loves bikes, and has enjoyed helping the hundreds of people we've had support the shop in the past 18 months!) It will also be at times simply unsafe for myself & Gwenna to be onsite.. so we have had to make the hard decision to close on weekdays. We are therefore open all day, every Saturday and any other times will be by appointment if possible.
We had a few people come into the shop over the weekend, and say "you don't look like you are renovating".. this means its time... time to show everyone what's beyond our current shop.. and our facade!
Upstairs consisted of a 3 Bedroom Residence, but it didn't have any external access with its entrance via a stairwell in the centre of the building. We decided to demolish all internal walls and make the upstairs one large room, with many different possibilities. However with this intention our first major hurdle was put in front of us. The original timber floor beams span the entire width of the building, a massive 8 metres - making the bounce in the floor upstairs scary! This would not support a group of people let alone a lot! So our plans are to manufacture & install steel columns that will stretch the height of the external walls and steel beams that will span the width of the building, including new timber flooring joists & beams along with new flooring in the upstairs area. This floor will become a large retail space..
Access to all levels in the property is also a great importance. The property consists of 2 Double Storey Buildings not fully aligned, making the property have 4 different levels. To overcome this we are installing a Lift, in the original stairwell, that will allow access to all floors. Along side the Lift there will be a new floating staircase installed. Access to what is considered the main Liebig Street level will be via a ramp at front street level, and a ramp from the Ozone Carpark.
The Liebig Street Level will consist of a small Cafe, and will be the hub of retail sales for the Bike Shop, which will stretch through to the raised rear level of the back building.
Downstairs in the Basement, where we are currently trading from, will become the main Workshop for any bike repairs & servicing... This area doesn't require any major renovations, but during construction of the Lift Shaft, this floor will be unaccessible to the public, as it is the main access point for any concrete pouring and steel works.
The plan with this blog.. is to keep you updated - and to tell you our renovation story!
So far July's building works has consisted of digging! Lots of digging! Firstly on the main Liebig Street Level to make way for footings to be poured along both the North & South walls in preparation for the steel support columns. Concrete should be poured later this month, hopefully. Secondly below basement level in the Lift pit - to support the massive stone walls that surround the Lift Shaft we have had to do several underpinnings, this involves concreting a number of sections in different stages. So far there have been 3 stages completed and a 4th this week should see most of the underpinning completed, and ready for the base pour.
It's a time consuming process - and to most it wouldn't look like much has been achieved, besides dust - a lot of dust.. everywhere!
AUGUST & SEPTEMBER 2018.
At the beginning of this month we finally had the base of the lift shaft concrete completed..
Construction also moved to the front Liebig Street level as we boarded off the front street entrance, removed all of the old windows, and levelled up our shop access following the Liebig Street paving & footpath upgrades.
This was followed by the major installation of our new steel columns and upstairs floor beams.
It was a great feeling to finally have the steel in place - although there is still more to come!
After the installation of the steel, works moved to upstairs - and the old, somewhat scary, floor & beams were fully removed and replaced.. It feels much safer walking around up there now and this space will have so much versatility.
Another couple of sandstone walls have been deconstructed, more flooring was removed in what is to be our new open stairwell - and the old stairs were also removed to open up the lift shaft from base to top! This next month will see more steel works take place, and with that hopefully most of our major structural elements are taken care of...
OCTOBER 2018 to MARCH 2019
It's been awhile since I updated the Renovation Blog..
There has been an immense amount of progress on the building in the past 6 months.. The Steel for our Lift Shaft was installed before Christmas, dropped in through the roof by crane! Following this upstairs flooring was completed to join it to the new steel structure. We also worked hard on our Liebig Street front-of-shop in the hope of getting the hoarding off before Santa's arrival - but with a delay in Windows & Glass this has been out of our control, and so the hoarding still remains! But shhh.. behind it looks awesome!
As Luke recommenced his position in the Bike Shop throughout the summer period, construction ticked along in the background thanks to the tremendous efforts of our lone builder Ken. Upstairs Walls were framed out along with the Cathedral Ceiling - there is just so much timber - but it is now ready for electrical & plastering!
Throughout this month since our closure on the 4th, we have made dust - lots & lots of dust!! Doorways were knocked out & formed to make way for Lift access in the Rear Showroom & Basement. A complete new roof & gutters has been installed on the original Liebig Street structure, and plumbing & framework has been installed for the 2 new bathrooms. The Steel for our awesome new staircase in the front of the building was completed today and in the next couple of weeks the pallets of parts that now occupy our basement floor will be assembled to make our Lift Box etc - which will see a massive weight literally lifted off our shoulders!
The building is really starting to come together - and aside from a bit more floor works on the main Liebig Street level, there's no more demolishing! Phew... I'll be glad to see the last of this dust!
This has been a much bigger project than we ever anticipated, we have had many hurdles pop-up along the way, but we have overcome them one-by-one and I am pretty confident that this place is going to be simply amazing when it is finally completed later this year.
APRIL to NOVEMBER 2019
It's been a long time since an update.. sorry.. its been so full on that we just haven't had time to keep up.
If you have been one of the hundred's of people to peek through our front window, you will have seen a glimpse of the transformation that has taken place over this past 8 months!
The lift was installed - a much longer process than we ever thought, but finally it is done & most of all working! Walls & ceilings were plastered and painted throughout.. the coffered ceiling (Luke's creative masterpiece) was also completed and looks simply beautiful. Our custom hand-painted Columns and wall panels arrived and fitted like a glove.. phew!
The staircase was lined with redgum, sanded & clear coated - balustrade was installed, and glass was fitted! Lighting & Sound Systems were completed..
Tiling.. lots & lots of tiling - bathrooms and the main floor area with porcelain tiles, and I even hit the ground to lay the upstairs & showroom with carpet tiles! I'm pretty proud of my efforts if I must say!
Windows & Doors were installed where needed throughout the building.
Lots of Cabinetry, topped with beautiful Redgum & Quartz Benchtops made its debut on the main floor, and the show stopper - our Coffee Machine - arrived in all its glory! Along with our custom display cabinet - our Cafe is actually starting to take shape!
There is still lots to be done.. mainly bits finished here & there.. more cabinets to pop up, bathrooms to finish, tiling to grout.. the list goes on.. but its CLOSE.. SO CLOSE.. soon we'll be done and it will be one of the biggest & proudest achievements in our lives.. and we simply can't wait to show you!!
MARCH 2020 TO THE END
Well what a year that was! When we thought we weren't too far off opening... along came COVID.. Lockdowns.. Restrictions!
We decided to take advantage of the restrictions and change the Bike Shop to By Appointment Only, so that we could have a last crack at completing ALL the building renovations. We finished off the small things, grouting tiles.. laying thousands of Tactiles by hand.. painting floors and walls - again! In September we decided it was time to beautify our facade - restoring her to her original glory with custom made mouldings recreated from an original photograph of the building in the 1880s. Scaffolding went up and we made the most of a view of Liebig Street not usually seen, as render and paint was chipped away. It was a surprise discovery when we revealed the faint remnants of old Commonwealth Bank lettering behind layers of paint! The restoration of the facade was another process that took longer than we initially thought - but like everything else we wanted it done right the first time!
After another somewhat busy summer period in the bike shop - even with a shortage of new bikes around the country & the world - and with the easing of restrictions, we decided in February 2021 it was time... time to reveal to Warrnambool what 5 years of hardwork and dedication can achieve.. and so here we are!
In conclusion, we are so PROUD of the transformation we have made to 85-87 Liebig Street, Warrnambool... we have given this amazing old building a new lease on life.. but with it has come so many challenges we had never foreseen. We have had to jump so many hurdles - when it comes to touching something old, not only do you have the general problems age can bring, but you also have the challenges of todays building compliances. It brings with it a realisation of why not too many owners of commercial buildings restore & alter.. and we have done this all on our own - there has been no support or encouragement from those with authority. Its been draining, not only physically, but emotionally. There have been so many times, especially in the past 6 months, where I have literally fallen to the ground and said "I am done". But Luke has been my legs and helped me stand again. I am being raw and honest, because I want people to know just how hard this really has been. Its time those who are willing and able to do what we have done, whether it be renovate and restore a building, or start a new business completely from scratch, are given help, guidance, assistance, encouragement and support. We are, after all, not only doing this because we want to provide great bikes and service to our customers, but we also love where we have grown up and want to see shops in Warrnambool's CBD thrive and grow.