They met more than 40 years ago, now Jan and Rob Oldham are coming full circle and returning to where their love began.
In 1977, the pair met when they were both working at the Department of Health in Woden at the Alexander and Albemarle buildings. They both had desks on the fifth floor of the Alexander building.
“Straight away we knew we had that connection and more than 40 years later we are still going strong,” Jan said.
“I used to look at [Jan] at the photocopier machine,” Rob added.
Jan and Rob started dating in 1978 and married in 1980 after Rob proposed to Jan in the office carpark.
With the foundations of their relationship budding from the site, the pair have always felt an emotional connection with the buildings.
The Department of Health ceased operating out of the Alexander and Albemarle buildings almost 10 years ago. Since then the towers have sat dormant and dilapidated, frequented only by rebellious teenagers and vandals.
Jan said she had felt saddened to see the buildings fall into a state of disrepair.
“It wasn’t very nice to see it, particularly with graffiti and broken windows,” she said.
- Related: Couple sells their Kangaroo Valley home where David Attenborough once filmed
- Related: Agent sells his grandmother’s home of more than 30 years
- Related: Growing demand from families drives three-bedroom unit market
It was a far cry from the buildings’ glory days when Jan and Rob first met.
Alexander and Albemarle were built in the late 1960s and were among the first erected in Woden’s Town Centre.
Canberra developers, Doma Group, purchased the site in 2010 and had planned to redevelop into office buildings. For about five years Doma tried to respond to every request for leased accommodation to little avail.
There was a glimmer of hope, at one stage a tenant was secured, and a development application was lodged and approved, but the tenant ended up going elsewhere.
After the period of limbo, a decision was made to repurpose the buildings for residential development, and in 2018 – after eight long years – an application was lodged for 186 industrial-style apartments.
For Jan and Rob, the refurbishment holds an extra-special place in their heart. The couple has purchased a one-bedroom apartment on the same floor, in the same building they worked all those years ago.
While they live at Rosedale on the South Coast, they plan to use the apartment for their regular travels to Canberra to visit family.
The couple has five children between them, and 14 grandchildren, most of whom live in Canberra.
“We hadn’t been thinking too much about [buying a property in Canberra] … but this seemed to have a trigger, and we thought it would be quite nice,” Jan said.
“The fact we worked and met in the same building all those years ago was quite a romantic connection.”
Doma Group senior development manager David Carey said construction on the buildings has an estimated completion date in the first quarter of 2020. Doma received a commission of development application approval on Tuesday.
“We have a site presence now and are carrying out internal demolition and enabling works,” he said.
“It’s considered a substantial alteration, so every element of the site has to be built up to today’s building codes.”