In another positive sign for the hospitality industry in the central business district, plans have been lodged to develop a Japanese fusion restaurant with a twist at the lower end of Sturt Street.
As construction on major projects such as the Gov Hub continue unabated through the coronavirus crisis and news that it may even be completed ahead of schedule, in addition to the weekend announcement that pubs, restaurants and cafes may gradually reopen from June 1, it is new impetus for the recently troubled industry.
The proposed restaurant, which is waiting on approval from the City of Ballarat, is located at 30-32 Sturt Street, near the Irish Murphy's pub.
The Sturt Street building was purchased by Kazuhiro Kojima and his business partners Ling bing Xia and Zhicheng Zhang in November 2019.
With more than a dozen already established restaurants and take-away establishments around Australia, the focus is now on opening their first businesses in Victoria.
In addition to the planning application for Ballarat, Mr Kojima is also waiting for approval to open a business in Geelong.
Mr Kojima told The Courier that Ballarat was chosen as they were drawn in by the heritage aspects of the city.
Wanting to keep the finer details of what the restaurant would look like under wraps, Mr Kojima said the Ballarat restaurant would be based on the idea of a sushi train, though it would be in no way traditional.
Utilising Japanese technology, patrons' food would be delivered by a 'bullet train'.
"We want to make a sort of Australian/Japanese fusion restaurant. In conjunction with the nice facade of the building, we want to make something interesting," he said.
"It will be something completely different. It will 'pop.'"
The planning application, lodged by Licht Architecture, proposes converting the ground floor retail space into the restaurant. To do so, some works would need to be undertaken including the demolition of walls and joinery as well as the existing bathroom facilities.
A 48 square metre extension would also be added on to the rear of the building.
Upstairs, minor works are proposed to restore the 'derelict' two bedroom apartment and its heritage features.
Architect Jason Licht has worked on a number of projects with Mr Kojima, including two Japanese restaurants in Tasmania.
One of these won an architectural award last year.
Mr Licht's plans are for a "fun and funky" restaurant inside the old Ballarat building, that will surprise people when they walk in off the street.
"Each restaurant I have planned [for Kazuhiro] has a new theme and its own unique personality," Mr Licht said. "This one will be distinct, and there will be a surprise when you walk in."
He said the building also has a courtyard at the back which could be transformed into a perfect Japanese oasis.
The planning application would add to the continued revitalisation of the iconic street in the heart of the city.
David Wright, managing director of Colliers International Ballarat, which sold the building, said that Ballarat's central business district had been transformed in the last five years.
Pointing out examples such as more restaurants opening in Armstrong Street and new businesses along Mair Street, he said investors and businesses had identified opportunities with construction of the Gov Hub and other major projects under way, meaning many more people would soon live or work in the area.
"Over the last few years, there's been a number of people that have either bought property or have leased properties, and are in the process of doing them up, to take advantage of what's happening around them," Mr Wright said.
"When an area is identified and supported by council, it gives occupiers the confidence to move forward."
Last year, a number of major retail stores including Provincial Home Living, Witchery and Sportscraft also opened on or near Sturt Street, while Myer announced that it extended the lease of its store and would undertake improvement works.
Mr Wright said the building in question was under-developed, as it sits on only about half of the land, and the upstairs area was in "desperate need of renovation", so was a perfect opportunity to activate the space within one of Sturt Street's historic buildings.
"Sturt street is iconic. It's a beautiful boulevard with these fantastic gardens running down the spine of the strip," Mr Wright said.
"There are a lot of beautiful properties and architecture that have been altered and renovated to bring them into the 21st century.
"And this is another example of where somebody has decided to realise the opportunity with a property such as this.
"It's great to see that there are people out there that have the foresight and the determination to convert these existing buildings into better spaces."
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