Just over a year since it opened, hospitality businesses still haven't seen the rush expected from GovHub's hundreds of workers in the CBD.
The 1000-capacity office, housing a number of government agencies, was officially opened in April 2021.
While several offices already in Ballarat, like the State Revenue Office in Mount Helen and Wendouree's VicRoads centre, moved into Mair Street, it was expected there could be hundreds more workers being moved from Melbourne, or filling brand new jobs, for other agencies.
The full list of agencies with a presence, from what The Courier could ascertain, included VicRoads, which opened a new customer service centre; Consumer Affairs Victoria; the State Revenue Office; the Department of Justice; the Department of Education and Training; Service Victoria; Regional Development Victoria; and the Department of Environment, Land, Water, and Planning.
According to information provided last year before the building opened, about 220 workers from VicRoads, about 100 from Consumer Affairs, 65 from the Department of Education, and 300 from the SRO were confirmed to be working from GovHub.
Since the building opened, there have been lockdowns, ongoing restrictions for workers and businesses, and continuing flexible work arrangements.
But many businesses were expecting workers to eventually return, and were prepared to take on extra staff or open for additional hours to accommodate them.
Several business owners and workers The Courier spoke to said they had not seen anything near the expected level of increased activity post-lockdown that hundreds of new workers would have provided.
Many were sanguine, noting parking in the area was bad enough, but were still hopeful there'll be more GovHub workers heading out for a coffee or lunch soon.
Some mentioned they had extended opening hours or had plans to do so to welcome GovHub workers, but with disappointing results so far.
The Courier contacted each of the agencies listed above, to find out the number of workers on-site, and the number working from home, as well as when all workers were expected to be back in the office full-time.
The Department of Treasury and Finance, which operates the building itself, was also contacted for comment - in response, a government spokesperson did not answer any questions on numbers.
"The requirement for the Victorian Public Service to return to the office a minimum three days a week remains in place," they said in a statement.
"This is consistent with the practice of many private sector employers."
None of the other government agencies provided a response, however the Department of Justice said to refer to the DTF response.
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Commerce Ballarat chief executive Jodie Gillett said the rest of the city was "excited" to see more people working from the building.
"There's no doubt 1000 people in the CBD will absolutely help our businesses recover, especially that Monday-to-Friday daytime market," she said.
"We all know the lunchtime trade is quiet, and it's quite hard for our hospitality venues at the moment, they'd love to be open seven days but it's just not feasible, they don't have the custom or the staff, but we know a full GovHub can make a real difference."
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