A LAUNCESTON couple plans to spend more than $1 million on the city's landmark Chalmers Church to house their expanding graphic design business.
Graeme Walker and Jodie Verhey have bought the 150-year-old building on Prince's Square from Ken Partridge for an undisclosed price.
It officially became their property late last week, eight months after Mr Walker first knocked on Mr Partridge's door to ask him if he might sell.
"We have Walker Designs at Five Ways and we needed a place to expand the business," Mr Walker said yesterday.
"I wanted a fairly unique location and I had this idea one day - I wondered about `that old church' in the city."
The building, which soars 24 metres from its tower floor to the bell housing at the top, will provide the space for the couple to at least double the number of staff in the business, Ms Verhey said.
"At the moment there are 10 of us," she said.
Mr Partridge lived at Chalmers with his wife, Juliet, a writer and book editor, for 20 years, until she died a few years ago.
He has moved to an East Tamar rural property.
Chalmers has been a talking point for many years because of its exterior paint job.
An oil-based paint was mistakenly applied to the limestone and brick facade in 1976, trapping moisture beneath the paint so that it blistered and started to peel away, Mr Walker said.
Behind the facade, the building is structurally strong with Huon pine columns, Baltic pine floors and impressive 1860s joinery, he said.
It was designed by William Henry Clayton.
The original bronze bell, imported from London in 1859 still rings in its sandstone tower.
Mr Walker and Ms Verhey will spend the next few months tidying up the garden and starting on the exterior paint work of the building affectionately known as the wedding cake church because of its shape.
They will also prepare a conservation management plan to submit for approval to the Tasmanian Heritage Commission before starting work on a development application to go to the Launceston City Council.
Mr Walker has dreams of opening up several different floors inside to give a view of the impressive interior.
"We won't be altering the outside - we can't because of its heritage value," he said.
Ms Verhey said that she couldn't wait to restore the interior joinery.
"It's such a precious building, we will be doing it right," she said.