Hotel Australasia’s fate goes down to the wire

'Save The Pit' campaigners Angela George and Peter Whiter have been working around the clock for the past two weeks, building a business case and garnering support to buy out the heritage section of the 1906 hotel from the developer

'Save The Pit' campaigners Angela George and Peter Whiter have been working around the clock for the past two weeks, building a business case and garnering support to buy out the heritage section of the 1906 hotel from the developer

Hotel Australasia developer Rodney Thompson says he is prepared to extend the deadline given to ‘Save the Pit’ campaigners to prepare their case to buy the front heritage section of the pub for $500,000.

Mr Thompson offered to sell off the front 15 metres of the iconic hotel if it was restored to its original condition, with the front section subdivided off from the remainder of the hotel before it is demolished to make way for a third supermarket in the town.

“If they show us on Thursday that they’ve made serious progress, and we believe that they’ve engaged the right people and had the right discussions, we might be able to look at giving them more time,” Mr Thompson said.

“It wouldn’t be much; definitely no more than a week.

“We’ve obviously got financial commitments, and the longer we leave it without starting construction, the more it costs us.”

The ‘Save the Pit’ group, which includes Eden builder Peter Whiter, historian and heritage expert Angela George, and the Wykes families, plans to restore the 1906-look and turn it into a commercial building, possibly including a wine or tapas bar, and art gallery.

They remain confident of doing the deal, but believe their best chance to make it a viable business proposition is for Bega Valley Shire Council to take ownership of the front section of the building.

The group is in the process of drafting a business plan for Council to review.

Councillors and staff were meeting to hold a workshop to discuss their progress late on Wednesday.

Mayor Bill Taylor and acting general manager Wayne Sartori had already met with the group last Thursday, but Cr Taylor told the Magnet on Monday that no commitments have been made and that Council remains “interested listeners”.

“They were going to go away and come back with some more concrete figures in regards to how much it would cost to restore the 1906 façade,” Cr Taylor said.

“We’re just interested listeners, and we’re just hoping to see what develops at this point; there’s absolutely no commitment from us.”

While welcoming the news of a likely deadline extension, Ms George said it is “no reason to step back and stop chipping away at it”.

She also said the fight is not just about nostalgia.

“It’s not just about the building. It’s about what the building can offer the town and the community,” she said.

“We need to nurture this tourism industry and give it every opportunity to succeed; it’s the only industry we’ve got that’s growing, and there will be employment opportunities that come with it.”

“If you take away a heritage building, all of a sudden part of the experience is gone.”

Mr Whiter said a community fund would be used to help restore the 1906 façade.

To express your interest in donating, email australasiarescue@yahoo.com.au

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