boland’s history & heritage

Boland's Center 1928

a brief history

The Boland’s Centre is an example of the most ambitious modern Department Store ever constructed in North Queensland. It demonstrates the growth of Cairns as a centre of commerce in Queensland and the evolution of the Queensland retail industry. It’s creator Micheal Boland was a leading light in Cairns commercial and business life. The Boland’s Centre has a rich and fascinating history and it’s cultural heritage significance is based on criteria a, b, d, e, g and h of s.23 (1) of the Queensland Heritage Act 1992.

era of the boland’s centre

To put the era into perspective, the Boland’s centre was constructed between 1910 and 1912 at the time when King George V was the King of England, William Taft was the President of the United States of America and the Prime Minister of Australia was Andrew Fisher, the man who founded the Commonwealth Bank in 1912.

The Boland’s Centre has experienced two World Wars, the Great Depression and has stood silently and borne witness to a vast array of changing social and financial mores during, almost, the entire Twentieth Century.

Boland's Under Construction 1913

reviving boland’s

In 2000, internally the Boland’s Centre was languishing in disrepair and derelict. The potential of the building had been forgotten by all except for a lone Men’s Barber who had been cutting hair in Cairns for 41 years, located on the ground floor at the front of an unused internal arcade of abandoned and empty shops.

The first floor contained old-style office suites complete with mismatched carpets and malfunctioning air conditioning.

The second floor had been empty and closed to the public for 35 years. It was accessible only by a thin metal ladder attached to the rear wall. The retail shops on the Lake Street and Spence Street storefronts comprised of only a few discount tourist shops as well as some older vacant shops.

The then-owner of the Boland’s Centre decided to offer the property for sale. The Boland’s centre remained unsold on the market for many years.

Fortunately, a Heritage Listing was placed over the exterior of the entire building. Later, a height restriction on any new construction was placed to serve as another restriction preventing the possibility of either demolition of the building as well as preventing the possibility of a high-rise tower being built over the top of the existing Heritage listed façade.

The trend of high-rise towers being built on top of a Heritage-listed façades had been recently experienced in Cairns CBD with the development of the Jack and Newell building on Wharf Street. The Jack and Newell building had been overdeveloped with a new residential tower virtually obliterating the historic façade.

Many locals and observers involved in the property industry now believed that the dilapidated condition of the building, along with the restriction on any redevelopment made Boland’s an unsellable “White Elephant”. The cost of restoring the enormous concrete structure combined with the impost of the Heritage listing was felt by most to have sentenced the lovely old building on the corner of Lake Street and Spence Street to decades of further slow decline.

restoration and renovation

The restoration and renovation of the Boland’s Centre began in February 2007 and 26 months later re-opened in April 2009.

The total cost of the restoration was $ 9.3 million dollars. More than 120 contractors worked on the Boland’s restoration creating much-needed employment in the building industry in the regional economy of Cairns.

The primary goal was to undertake and successfully manage the painstakingly correct heritage restoration of the now almost century-old Boland’s Centre.

The secondary goal was to achieve a sympathetic adaptation that would house a successful commercial enterprise within the Boland’s Centre. Known as Christie Offices, these newly renovated spaces adapted the interiors and guaranteed the commercial survival of this beautiful building long into the future.

the boland’s centre today

The modern-day Boland’s Centre has retained its external historical style with an internal restoration that pays tribute to its heritage. Inside you can find 70 superbly renovated offices, 10 retail shops, over 20 conference spaces and various meeting rooms, while remaining an icon in the centre of Cairns.

Find out more about the available spaces in the Bolands Centre by contacting a member of our team today!