Its towering bluestone walls have housed some of Australia's most notorious criminals, but now the infamous Pentridge Prison is shedding its image of convicts and cutthroats in favour of cafes and cinemas.
After being decommissioned in 1997, and trading hands between private developers for more than a decade, the sprawling grounds, guard towers and cell blocks of Pentridge Prison are now being turned into a luxury development.
The site will include apartments, boutique shops, cafes and a 15-screen cinema in what developers say will be a "well-designed urban village that invigorates an important historical asset."
So is this a necessary modernisation, or papering over our history in search of a dollar?
'Where the bad people go'
Author and photographer Rupert Mann has spent years documenting the site and interviewing former prisoners and staff who called the prison home.
Mann has compiled his findings in a new book, Pentridge: Voices From The Other Side, and said like many Australians, his fascination with the place began at an early age.
"I remember Pentridge when I was much younger, maybe six years old, going past the walls with my father and asking him 'What's that place?'," he told News Breakfast.
"He told me, 'That's where the bad people go.' I kind of had this fascination from then with Pentridge."
The name alone is part of Australia's folklore and the infamy is well deserved.
Between 1850 and 1997 it bore witness to scenes of great violence and depravity, including the last legal execution in Australia, held in 1967. And it housed the likes of Ned Kelly and Chopper Read.
As Mann notes in his book, there were 75 deaths at the prison between 1973 and 1997 — of which only 13 were by natural causes.
And when the Jesuit social services opened it up for public tours only a few months after the last prisoners departed, they had to invest $100,000 to bring it in line with basic health and safety standards.
Back in 1978 former governor Bob Gill made headlines when he remarked to a journalist that the facilities were so bad "if I put my dogs in conditions like this, I'm sure I'd be reported to the RSPCA."
Mr Gill is one of 15 people to offer their account of Pentridge in Mann's book, saying some "bloody crazy crap" went on there.
"Morale in that bloody place was at rock bottom. It had an effect on the staff, working in there," he said.
Indigenous actor Jack Charles also offers his story, detailing how he spent time in and out of jail in his younger days, including arriving at Pentridge about the age of 18.
"I saw really nasty things. Pentridge was a violent place," he said.
"I remember thinking sometimes that the screws (guards) could come in to your cell at any time and kill you … It was a young man's paranoia, I suppose."
'Don't sweep history under the carpet'
Mann doesn't romanticise the stories of Pentridge Prison, but he does seek to preserve them.
He worries the redevelopment will disconnect Australians from the past and the lessons it can teach us.
"By physically demolishing the more recent layers of the prison, a chasm is placed between us and the events that happened there," Mann wrote.
He hopes his book can bridge that chasm.
The Shayher Group bought the land in 2013 and is in the process of developing it.
Public events are already held at the site — both cultural and historical — and this week a guest criminologist will give a talk on the way crime has changed over the years.
History of Pentridge Prison
- Pentridge was built in 1850 in Coburg in Melbourne's north
- H-Division was for high security, discipline and protection of prisoners
- Jika Jika or K-Division housed the maximum-security-risk inmates
- Ned Kelly, Julian Knight, Chopper Read and Squizzy Taylor all served time there
- Ronald Ryan, the last man executed in Australia, was hanged at Pentridge
- It closed in 1997
Mann said more than half of the former prison inmates and staff he approached didn't feel comfortable talking or revisiting the site, and many had mixed feelings about the development.
"Many people said raze the place, demolish it, make it into a park, and forget it," he said.
"But many people do feel that the development is too extreme and too much has been lost at Pentridge and it really can't tell its story any more, not in the way it could when I did the book.
"I think that's why a lot of people, a lot of these guys got into the book because they could see that their personal history, their personal story that they lived was being swept under the carpet in order to make the place palatable and sellable."
Blending the old with the new
The Shayher Group is adamant that heritage is front of mind in the redevelopment saying it wants it to be a community-focussed space.
"What we've realised over the years is that this site needs to be activated in terms of the public," spokesman Anthony Goh said.
"We're really trying to create an open space where you can come have lunch, dinner, breakfast as well.
"It's a place where you come and meet people [and] go to the fancy Palace Cinemas.
"The majority is supporting us and unfortunately the majority, when they support something, don't say that much."
It's estimated the redevelopment will cost about $1 billion and take up to 10 years to complete.
Heritage Victoria guidelines mean Shayher Group must preserve the exterior of certain buildings of significance, but the developers have plans to repurpose the insides.
This could mean turning cell blocks into an art gallery, or turning four small cells into one large hotel room.
"There's a line of thought which says that in preserving heritage, ok preserve what is old, but then we need to offset it with the new," Mr Goh said.
"We're trying to get the message across that we're not destroying heritage here. Everything has gone through Heritage Victoria.
"And secondly, there is some balance here in making the site economic in order for it to go forward by itself in the future."