A giant new hotel, spa, and conference centre has been proposed for Warrenheip, just off the Western Highway.
International hotel chain IHG has come aboard as the operator for the planned 110-room Holiday Inn and Suites Ballarat Goldfields hotel, on Mahers Road, just to the east of Old Melbourne Road.
A partnership between IHG and Melbourne-based developers Forte Group, if approved, the hotel will feature "400sqm of flexible meeting space including a large ballroom, (a) 90-seat restaurant and bar, a day spa, gymnasium and outdoor pool".
The location, on the very edge of the City of Ballarat, is adjacent to the popular Mill Markets, and not far from Kryal Castle, which last year submitted plans for its own expanded accommodation.
On Wednesday, the operator was announced, and no plans or permit applications have been submitted to the City of Ballarat yet.
In a statement, IHG Australasia and Japan development vice-president Abhijay Sandilya said the new hotel, if approved, would target "mid-week occupancy, particularly from corporate and business travellers, and it will also be a popular destination for weddings".
"What's particularly exciting about this property is that it will truly be a destination in its own right, with a range of facilities and amenities, including a spa, pool, conference centre, restaurant, bar, that will give it a resort-like feel," he said.
It's understood project developer Forte Group has ties to Slade Beverages - Forte's William Tan said in a statement the planned location is "highly accessible" to the rest of Ballarat's offerings.
Ballarat Regional Tourism deputy chair Alicia Linley said the proposal could be a "confidence builder" for the city.
"I think it's a reflection of the anticipated growth in Ballarat and the Ballarat region, and the high rate of growth we're currently experiencing," she said.
"I imagine they've done their numbers and have seen Ballarat's a hub, and people can commute for all sorts of things, not just work - for business and tourism experiences too," Ms Linley said.
"The fact that someone's prepared to invest in that part of town is a real boon, it's a reflection on the great providers who are already here, and a boost for the Ballarat community who already know their town is great and they want to show it off to more people."
The accommodation industry is still recovering from the devastation wrought by the pandemic, and despite promises of travel vouchers and new attractions, rolling lockdowns in Victoria and elsewhere have severely dented travel from interstate as well as confidence in long-term planning.
"We're seeing a real domestic surge when it's on, and when it's off, lockdown's are really tough, the ups and downs are hard to manage," Ms Linley added.
However, several large tourism and accommodation projects have come online in Ballarat in recent years, including the new Quest Apartments hotel as part of the Ballarat train station precinct project.
This will be attached to a boutique retail and conference space, planned to open in October.
It's also a major step for the Warrenheip area, which already has several motels, caravan parks, and tourist attractions nearby, including Kryal Castle and the Mill Markets.
Recently, an application for rezoning a block of land north of the highway was submitted to the state government, which could lead to more commercial developments in the area, while the venerable Brewery Tap Hotel nearby, a 160-year-old bar and accommodation venue, has closed.
There are long-term plans to improve the Old Melbourne Road and Brewery Tap Road intersection with the highway, though Regional Roads Victoria has repeatedly stated while nothing is confirmed yet, there will be adequate space for any future plans.
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Diagrams for a potential overpass have been included in previous submissions to council, including for the Woodmans Hill Gateway Precinct plan, which would vastly improve the current dangerous intersection.
If approved, the Hachem Architecture-designed Holiday Inn project is expected to be complete by 2024.
The City of Ballarat is "eagerly awaiting" planning submissions for the project, a spokesperson said.
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