The proposed site of the GovHub.

A PRIME parcel land in the heart of the city’s civic precinct has been put up for sale at the same time as plans progress for Bendigo’s proposed $90 million GovHub project on an adjacent site.

Land that once housed the historic Doherty’s Garage has come onto the market ahead of the submission of plans for the GovHub, and has been billed as both the end of an era and a new beginning.

The Doherty family has put the land and buildings once occupied by the family’s iconic garage on St Andrews Avenue up for sale through tender. It sits amid the council buildings and car parks that will next year be demolished to make way for a building housing 1000 government workers, if the state government project goes ahead.

The sales summary calling for tenders by October 3 suggests the family is seeking private sector buyers.

“While Doherty’s have left the building, wouldn’t it be nice to see the new custodians tip their cap to the history here and allow the acclaimed name to live on in some form,” the summary says.

It suggests the former garage on site could be turned into a restaurant or shop, or redeveloped into multi-storey accommodation up to 20 metres high.

The City of Greater Bendigo council has yet to vote on any plans for the GovHub to which it says it will contribute land at the site and surrounding its Lyttleton Terrace offices.

The council refers all enquiries about GovHub to the Regional Development Victoria website that outlines its scope, but councillor James Williams said there was general acceptance of the concept among his colleagues given that consolidation of council office space in one location was identified in an independent review as a future improvement.

“It will have to come to the council table to be voted on, but there will have to be a lot more detail before that happens,” Cr Williams said.

The RDV website identifies 2022 as the completion date for the project, well after Ballarat’s $47m GovHub which will not include any local government tenants and which is being built by the state government.

The Victorian government has allocated $16m to Bendigo’s equivalent and wants a private partner to contribute the rest of the project cost with the lure of a long term, secure tenancy arrangement with government agencies at the end.

“The GovHub project is in the planning phase at the moment and a range of development models are being considered,“ a government spokesman said.

At Morwell, the developer of the $25m GovHub there has been identified as independent fund manager Castlerock Property which has a raft of government buildings in its portfolio and which manages properties on behalf of investment trusts.

Rental from government departments provides the income for those trusts.

The proposed sale also comes as a community campaign opposing the GovHub project gathers steam.

In an open letter to the City of Greater Bendigo published in the Bendigo Weekly on page 17, residents Max Turner and Lindsay Sargeant say the council’s involvement in the GovHub is a “muddle for residents”.

“What in the heck is going on? The previous council never voted to support council office consolidation,” Mr Turner and Mr Sargeant write.

“The land and building the government’s grabbing are owned by all greater Bendigo residents; not the council officers and not the politicians.”

– Sharon Kemp