YEARS of neglect, wrangling and false dawns might finally be over for Ballarat's Unicorn Hotel.Restoration works on the shabby Sturt St building are to start next week. The hotel's developer, Ki Lin Pty Ltd, has received a new building permit from Ballarat City Council and a heritage permit from Heritage Victoria. The state's heritage body has also ordered the company to begin works by the end of next month and finish them by October 5 this year.Penalties could be enforced by Heritage Victoria if the developer fails to follow its directive. But Ballarat City Council planning and development director Trevor McCullough told an ordinary council meeting this week works may begin even sooner than that. "I'm informed by the owner as recently as yesterday that he intends to begin works next week," Mr McCullough said.Ki Lin director Noel Dobbyn confirmed the likely start date when contacted by The Courier last night."Our first priority is to get the facade finished and the verandah reinstated so we can get rid of the walkway underneath," Mr Dobbyn said. "I'm just happy we're moving." According to Heritage Victoria's website, the original hotel was built in 1856 and was first known as The Corner. The building's verandah and brick facade were added in 1863 or 1866 and a statue of a unicorn, long since removed, was added in the 1880s. But the saga surrounding recent renovation plans for the building has a history almost as rich. Previous owner Daryl Bodey wanted to turn the site into apartments. But he sold the hotel to Mr Dobbyn after having disputes with heritage bodies and objectors. In 2006, the green light was given to Ki Lin to begin work. By the beginning of last year, those permits had expired but the eyesore remained little changed.The issue was discussed at meetings of the previous Ballarat City Council last year and by the new council earlier this year.Council Heritage Advisory Committee councillor Samantha McIndhtosh said she looked forward to seeing the hotel restored.
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