This season The Block is heading back to the beach.
More specifically, the cast and crew will be taking on one of the most notorious buildings in Melbourne.
Nestled in between gentrified apartment blocks in the beachside suburb of St Kilda, sits the Gatwick Private Hotel, a boarding house that has long been synonymous with Melbourne’s gritty underbelly.
The Gatwick Private Hotel was first opened in 1937 as a “luxurious” hotel that was just a short stroll from St Kilda’s famous boardwalk.
For almost 30 years it served as a holiday destination for travelers from all over the world.
— The Block (@TheBlock) October 29, 2017
Then, in the 1960s, a woman named Vittoria Carbone bought the hotel and turned it into a boarding house for people who needed low income housing.
It became a home away from home for prison paroles, sex workers, runaways and anyone who found themselves down and out and in need of a place to rest their head.
Carbone died in 1998 and in the following year, the hotel was put up for sale.
Concerned that hundreds of people, with nowhere left to go, would be put out on the streets, Carbone’s twin daughters, Rose Banks and Yvette Kelly, bought the hotel with a $2.5 million loan from the Office of Housing.
The loan was given to the sisters under the condition that they continued to provide accommodation for Melbourne’s most needy residents.
For the next 16 years the sisters worked around the clock, making sure that Melbourne’s down and out always had a place to call home.
But the sisters couldn’t control the growing culture of drug abuse and violence in the hotel and local residents soon began to refer to the Gatwick as the “Hotel Hell”.
According to News.com.au, in February 2014, a long term resident was kicked and bashed to death in the corridor outside of his room.
The blood from his murder splattered the surrounding walls.
In 2006, Arthur Karatasiosis, 34, was stabbed to death in the hotel’s foyer.
A year earlier, 57-year-old Russian immigrant Sammy Garfunkel was found dead in his room. He had been murdered by a fellow resident and the night manager mistakenly put his lifeless body to bed, believing that he was just unconscious.
Sexual assaults and drug overdoses were an everyday occurrence in and around the hotel, and locals and visitors soon learnt to avoid the area.
Steve Paraskevas, the owner of Monroes restaurant across the street, has wanted The Gatwick to close for years.
“I would like to put a match to it,” he told the Herald Sun in 2015.
“I couldn’t tell you the number of bodies I have seen carried out of it.”
Now Paraskevas and many other locals have finally got their wish. Late last year, it was announced that Channel Nine had purchased the hotel to be renovated during this year’s season of The Block.
However, it might take more than a fresh coat of paint and new furnishings to completely erase The Gatwick’s violent and chilling past.
Shelley Craft, who hosts the reality TV show, recently told Stellar she couldn’t shake the creepy feeling the hotel gave her.
“I’m sure there were more than ghosts in that building. It was super creepy. I didn’t see it until after we had started some of our own demolition, and even at that point it was one of those buildings that if the walls could talk… I can’t say I saw any ghosts but I certainly felt that this building had some history,” she told the publication.
“When they started bringing up the carpets, it was something out of a horror movie. But that’s the thing when you’re renovating an old place, it’s always when the carpet comes up that the truth comes out.”
The Block crew reportedly found 389 syringes while cleaning up the site.
“Some rooms were immaculately maintained by elderly boarders and then right next door would be an ice lab,” a source told the Daily Telegraph.
“There was graffiti sprayed on the walls and they had lifted up carpet to push needles through holes in the floorboards.”
The network also reportedly brought in Father Bob Maguire to bless the premises before they commenced work.
“Their souls go marching on,” he told the Herald Sun.
“It does not matter if The Block builds the most beautiful apartments in the universe, the ancestors will be there, not to frighten anybody but they will be just there. Yes, they dragged us in the other day. It wasn’t the owners.”
The Block premieres on Channel Nine at 7pm on Sunday August 5.