The Shire of Murray continues to remain positive that an announcement will be made soon regarding the redevelopment of the Exchange Hotel.
In February 2017, Council completed its expression of interest process and selected a preferred candidate from a pool of four applications.
According to Shire President Maree Reid, the preferred applicant has worked diligently through a challenging planning process and extensive feasibility study.
“The shire has worked with the preferred applicant throughout the process to assist and provide advice as necessary,” Cr Reid said.
It is anticipated the final business case and developer application will be received shortly following final due diligence by the developer.
Once the developer application has been reviewed by Council, a business plan will be advertised and presented to the community for comment, in line with Local Government Act requirements.
“The shire understands the community’s frustration with the delay in making any announcements, but is confident that by selecting the ‘best fit’ developer and ensuring due diligence is undertaken, a positive result will be achieved for many generations to come,” Cr Reid said.
“By encouraging private investment, millions of dollars of ratepayer money will not need to be spent on redevelopment works.
“Some people have queried why the shire hasn’t got on and developed the site, but it is beyond the financial capacity of local governments to develop major commercial sites such as one of this scale.
“The shire has been committed to enticing and encouraging private investment.
“It has been about positive outcomes that will encourage private investment, protecting our heritage precinct and beautifying and retaining ownership of our foreshore and town square.”
Council purchased the former Exchange Hotel property in 2012 after it sat idle for four years with little interest from the private sector and amid fears that the property would be purchased by businesses inconsistent with the rich heritage fabric of the town, such as a fast food chain.
Council also faced the issue of non-ownership of the Murray River foreshore adjacent to the Hotel as well as much of the town square and swing bridge, being on the four-lot title of the Exchange Hotel property.
It was the practice of the day more than a century ago to subdivide where blocks on the Murray River foreshore had a boundary to the middle of the river.
“Since the purchase of the hotel site, the shire has excised the foreshore and town square components of the property and made the respective area reserve land to permanently protect these assets,” Cr Reid said.
“Council has also had a significant level of control over the development, to protect as much as possible, the heritage of the building, particularly a section dating back to 1866.”
Prior to the purchase there was no guaranteed protection for the building’s heritage elements.
The shire continued to remain open to selling the building in the event that a suitable buyer made an offer of purchase, but this did not eventuate due to a significant downturn in the economy, especially in the Peel region.
“Council therefore initiated an expression of interest process to identify potential developers that would significantly add value to the building, its heritage and bring positive economic outcomes to the Shire,” Cr Reid said.