DEVELOPERS of Colac’s Balnagowan House say the city will benefit from a $14-million redevelopment of the historic mansion.
Balnagowan’s owners Leigh and Jan Rich are working with Coast and Country Villages, and Valyarra to transform the 121-year-old homestead into the focal point of a retirement village with more than 50 units.
Mr Rich, Valyarra builders Jason Chivers and Andrew Wyatt, and CCV director Susan Malone were in Colac this week to inspect the mansion and speak to Colac Otway Shire Council leaders.
Mrs Malone said builders would begin the restoration within two weeks, fixing the building’s windows and exterior.
“Then immediately after that, they’ll be working on the interior,” she said.
Mr Chivers said the renovations and units would cost about $14 million.
He said it was “inevitable” the project would involve Colac workers and he planned to finish the refurbishment by the end of the year.
“It’s a great country project, we’re looking forward to kicking it off and giving back to the community,” he said.
Mrs Malone said the development would mean “a substantial contribution to the area”.
“We’re keen to put money back into the community by hiring locals where we can.”
Mr Rich is also director of Melbourne’s Inwood Constructions and he will help restore Balnagowan with Valyarra’s builders.
The mansion will include a lounge, bar, billiards room, library, guest suite, consulting room and conservatory.
Vandals have broken windows, spraypainted walls and lit a fire in the mansion, which also has cracks and broken ceilings.
“What we can save, we’ll save, and we will try to reproduce any areas that we can’t save,” Mrs Malone said.
“We want to retain as much of the feel of the building as possible but add the 21st-century comforts,” she said.
“So many people have got so many memories of Balnagowan – it’s got a lot of life ahead of it but with that old feel to it.”
The developers will build 12 units on the mansion’s grounds, following a previous owner’s planning permit, but Mrs Malone said they might build fewer units than the permit allowed.
She said Colac contractors interested in working on Balnagowan could contact CCV through its website.