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Is this Adelaide's next laneway hotspot?

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This could be the city’s new laneway hub – if it weren’t for the fact that it has a church and office complex built on top of it.

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But that will all change this week when work begins on the demolition of Uniting Communities’ historic Maughan Church, on the corner of Franklin and Pitt streets.

The primary purpose is to build a new 18-storey mixed-use facility which will become the welfare agency’s new hub.

But the work will also open up Penaluma Place.

Currently a cul de sac running off Grote Street, it once ran right through to Franklin Street, part of the network of laneways leading from the markets to the Torrens, which the state and local governments recently pledged $15 million to help revamp.

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Penaluma Place is currently buried under the soon-to-be-demolished church. Photo: Tony Lewis / InDaily

The Uniting Communities project will see Penaluma Place reopened – and is likely to see the agency become the landlord for the city’s latest small bar.

Chief executive Simon Schrapel can see the irony, “because we’re an organisation that’s got alcohol rehabilitation programs”.

“But we’re not an organisation that’s anti people being able to have fun and drink alcohol, providing that it’s in a responsible manner,” he told InDaily.

“We are conscious that if we do that, it’s sending the right message.”

The $80 million project is finally kicking off, with internal demolition work to start this week ahead of construction due to be completed in 2018.

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An impression (supplied) of the final project.

It will see a new structure comprising independent living units, short and longer-term disability and respite accommodation, and new space for the agency’s own operations and services.

They’re also in negotiations to bring in another organisation on a commercial lease, as well as for retail space, a café and a 400+ seat auditorium/convention centre.

Opening up Penaluma Place helps to make “a feature” of the new Pitt Street entrances, but Schrapel says it’s “all about making and building a destination point”.

“We need to be sensitive around how we do that, for the residents in our own building,” he said.

“But we think a bar might well be a possibility – not a large bar but something there on the ground floor.

“We do think that would be an appropriate use… it’s something we’re considering as a potential lease, but we haven’t made any applications for liquor licensing permissions at this point.”

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An architect’s sketch of the new laneway.

Schrapel said reopening the laneway was a “quite deliberate call we made early on”, despite there being more value in building on the land.

“But we figured there was an opportunity to activate the ground floor – the cafe experiences and dining experiences – and by being able to have a laneway that can spill into… it can provide a link between Grote Street and the market and Pitt Street [down to the riverbank].”

There could be yet more intrigue for the site, with a stage-two development mooted for further up Pitt Street, where Uniting Communities’ current offices now sit.

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The current offices on Pitt Street. Photo: Tony Lewis / InDaily

The agency essentially owns the block, and has grand – albeit as yet undetailed – plans to turn the remaining half of the site into a mixed-use housing development, “with a fair emphasis on social and affordable housing”.

“Our thinking is it could go up to 24 or 25 storeys, potentially,” Schrapel said.

“We’ve designed this stage with a view to allowing that, so it’s not one big block.”

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