MAJOR plans for Warrnambool’s landmark Fletcher Jones factory have been revealed by its new owner, who is seeking to transform the site into a national tourist drawcard.
Developer Dean Montgomery unveiled several tentative plans to breathe life into the 65-year-old former textiles plant, nearly a decade since the last item of apparel rolled off the assembly line.
The China-based Mr Montgomery has inspected the factory several times since its purchase earlier this month, assuring heritage buffs that he is keen to preserve the site’s historic features, including the Silver Ball.
He told The Standard he had big plans for the Fletcher Jones building, including the consolidation of the two vintage markets which are located at opposing ends of the Flaxman Street block.
The automotive enthusiast also is seeking to establish a motor sport museum on-site, believing it will act as a heritage drawcard in tandem with the markets and retro-styled Pleasant Hill gardens.
“Most definitely — it’s a fantastic site,” Mr Montgomery said. “The value of the Fletcher Jones factory has been underestimated for a long time. (The factory) has plenty of potential to become a major tourist attraction but the renovation and restoration process has to come first.”
Mr Montgomery said he was on the hunt for a potential cafe or restaurant proprietor for the site, which would cater for tourists visiting the relocated markets and potential motor sport museum.
The Geelong businessman has amassed an impressive collection of motor sport antiquities, including cars driven by sporting champions Peter Brock, John Goss and Dick Johnson.
“It’s an idea at this stage but I already have the collection and I’d say there’d be interest in some of the cars,” Mr Montgomery said.
“Motor sport is a personal interest of mine but people who are interested in the (factory’s) history may well be interested in the museum as well.
“(The whole project) might take three, four or more years, it’s a long-term prospect.”
Textiles entrepreneur Sir Fletcher Jones established the Pleasant Hill factory in 1948, employing more than 1000 workers at its peak in the 1960s. Industry deregulation by the Hawke government in the late 1980s sped up the decline of the company, which eventually shut its Warrnambool operations in 2005.
Mr Montgomery said he wanted to maintain and upgrade several key features of the site, including the Silver Ball water tower which was erected in 1967.
“We’re trying to track down painters that will be able to handle the job,” he said. “We want to keep it. It’s an icon for the city and many people have an attachment to it.”
Mr Montgomery was in Warrnambool over the past four days to consult people interested in the site’s heritage and potential.