Inner-City Car Park Turned Into Not-Quite-A-Hotel

Melbourne’s brand new boutique trailer park is coming! On a rooftop of a car park in one of Melbourne’s laneways that is Flinders Lane, James Fry, who is the owner of the car park called Fry’s Fast Park, is creating a ‘Notel’. The Notel is not a hotel. It is a total of six Airstream trailers that Fry bought in the US which are situated on the rooftop. They were lifted onto the top of the building with one of the largest cranes he could find and they are now all ready to be fitted out into 5-star luxury accommodation in this $1 million project.

To fit in with Melbourne’s iconic laneway street art, there will be street art put on the wall that abuts Tonic House and its vibrant rooftop space. The entrance to this Notel is via a door that leads you to a stand-up café with a barista who will pass lattes through a hole in the wall. Fry said “we are not a hotel, we are anything but. We’re going to provide people with an experience that is 50 percent about the bed and the other 50 percent is about Melbourne.” A hipster or grandma can say that they went to a car park in a Melbourne laneway, went and grabbed a coffee, then climbed to the rooftop and checked into an Airstream, only in Melbourne.

With it expected to be open mid year, the guests of the Notel should expect to pay $320-$350 a night to stay in the 9.4 metres long aluminum trailers which date back to the early 1970’s and feature queen-sized beds, TVs, couches, and luxurious bathrooms. During the day, the car park will still be operating as per normal, but at night, it will double as a space for events holding up to 300 people! The less-celebrated end of Flinders Lane is poised for the arrival of the Notel because Fry has considered numerous plans for the unused space during the 10 years he has owned it. Almost every real-estate agent in Melbourne has approached him to sell it to cashed-up Chinese investors who are rumoured to be willing to pay $10 million for it.

Fry had thought about a 40-storey redevelopment, or a rooftop bar or cinema. He then started to wonder about accommodation by installing a caravan, train carriage, tent, or tram but it was only during a trip to the US that Fry decided on these 6 silver beauties when he stayed at a boutique trailer park in Santa Barbara called Autocamp. Fry owns this car park with his father Blair and it was Blair who established the Fry’s storage empire 40 years ago. The duo is accustomed to helping people fit their possessions into unique spaces.

James thought of everything when it came to Notel’s personal luxury bathroom because he doesn’t want his guests to be stumbling about in the dark of the night to go to a shared outhouse. He lowered the floor to ensure that tall people will be able to fit in the shower and is turning one of the trailers into the premier suite that will have an outdoor private spa. Melbourne already is home to an outdoor “glamping” experience at St Jerome’s – The Hotel, which is located on top of Melbourne Central, features 20 canvas bell tents, but guests who stay there have to dash outside to the on-site amenities.

Ever since American Wally Byam built the first Airstream trailer in 1929, Airstreams have fascinated retro fans. N ASA sought after its sleek space-age curves for when the first men who walked on the moon in 1969 returned home from their mission. In case Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin had become infected with some form of germs from the moon, an Airstream was fitted out and transformed into a quarantine facility that was then transferred by a crane to the location where Apollo 11 was to land.

In Australia, there is a tight Airstream community that stays together by travelling around via the Airstream Club Australia. Jessie Curtis-Griffiths, who is its organiser, is also the “Happy Glamper” who is renting a 1966 Airstream that goes by the name of Peggy Sue for $520 for a weekend on the Mornington Peninsula with one night free. The 1968 Airstream Happy Camper Pizza is food-trucking in style with owners Sonia Lear and partner Remi Pham. The Grub Food Van run by Mark Murphy and Tim Mann in Fitzroy suggests everything 1965 after being purchased via lowa on eBay.

The Airstream experience flourishes on Airbnb with one night in Bright, Victoria, for $136 a night, or if you seek a more exotic location such as Alozania, Spain, it is $176 per night. On the accommodation website, Fry will put Notel up for rent for those interested. “We’re so lucky with how amazing Melbourne is. We’re going to give people a local experience. We’re going to push them into the laneways, the coffee culture, the street art and all those things that are boutique, small and hidden.”

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