One of the companies that figured as a linchpin for the revamped Ballarat Station Precinct has completely withdrawn from the project, The Courier has learned.
In 2016, Spotless was announced as the anchor tenant and operator of the new convention centre at the revamped Goods Shed.
However, a Spotless spokesperson has said they exited the lease last month.
No replacement for the contract has yet been announced, with the opening of the revamped Goods Shed - which is being overseen by developers Pellicano - expected later this year.
The contract Spotless signed in 2016 was worth from $40-50 million over 20 years, a press release issued by the company estimated at the time. It would provide around 50 jobs once it was up and running, the announcement suggested.
Under the terms of the deal, Spotless was due to run the convention centre venue under its EPICURE brand.
A state government announcement at the time said Spotless would focus "on building an events base including exhibitions, performances, weddings, conventions, community events and galas".
Their withdrawal is likely to raise concerns over the marketing and use of the convention centre given the longer lead time normally required to book and organise large events.
Spotless was taken over by services giant Downer in 2017, and by mid way through last year there was growing speculation in the business press Downer management would divest the catering business of their new acquisition.
On confirmation of Spotless's exit, The Courier sent a query to Regional Development Victoria asking if the withdrawal was likely to have an impact on the timings of the opening. Spotless had been earmarked to manage the convention centre and undertake cleaning, security, audio visual, and sales and marketing services.
A response from the RDV did not address whether any alternative arrangements had been made, saying leases were a commercial matter for Pellicano.
The Goods Sheds website says the venue will be open this July.
While not specifying a month, an RDV spokesperson confirmed the project is expected to be finished in 2021: "The Goods Shed's transformation into a conference and events centre as part of the Ballarat Station Precinct redevelopment is on track for completion later this year."
It did not confirm the status of any likely replacement for Spotless, saying: "Lease agreements between the developer and tenants are a matter for the developer and are commercial in confidence."
Pellicano has been overseeing the development of the entire Ballarat Precinct Project, which now includes a hotel - which has Quest as its tenant - as well as a new multi-storey car park for rail commuters.
The 77-room Quest hotel opened late last year.
There is also a public plaza planned.
A separate project managed by the Department of Transport to build an adjacent bus interchange is also underway.
The Goods Shed convention centre is expected to have 1,700 square metres of meeting rooms, a 300-seat banquet space and a 300-seat theatrette, alongside more than 900 square metres of retail and dining options.
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While the conference and events sector was badly hit by COVID-19, Downer are believed to have been mulling an exit from some of its catering leases prior to the pandemic.
The Andrews government committed $44 million to the Ballarat Station Precinct project in 2015.
In March this year, Regional Development Victoria announced a grant worth $750,000 for the development of a new urban distillery on the site.
Pellicano was also approached for this article but did not respond.
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