A CAR dealership's former headquarters in central Warrnambool could become the site for one of the city's highest apartment developments, bringing bold, modern architecture to Fairy Street.
Melbourne developer Jose Romero has shared early concept plans for a $70 million nine-storey apartment and commercial building on Fairy Street with the Warrnambool City Council and nearby businesses.
Plans show the building includes at least three towers. One includes 100 serviced apartments as part of a planned Punthill Apartment Hotel to the north, while a central tower with curved architecture includes about 50 to 60 apartments to be sold.
Plans also show a tower with office space to the south. Retail space, balconies, roof gardens and a penthouse are also proposed.
The complex would have 10 levels, including a ground floor and a basement with 180 car spaces.
Steve Callaghan, whose grandfather Frank started the family's Callaghan Motors at the site nearly 90 years ago, said the development would transform the city.
"I think it's what Warrnambool has been crying out for," Mr Callaghan said.
"It's a huge vote in confidence."
The site could boost the CBD's residential population and bring 20,000 visitors a year, based on a 60 per cent occupancy rate of the hotel.
The Callaghan family sold the site in 2020 to Mr Romero subject to council planning approval.
The highest development Warrnambool City Council has approved is an office-apartment block at the corner of Gilles and Merri streets proposed for nine storeys including a basement.
City growth director Andrew Paton said the council was yet to receive the planning application and any time frames would be determined by the quality of the application.
"Preliminary discussions have taken place," Mr Paton said.
"But council is awaiting a finalised planning permit application."
Ludeman Real Estate director Mark Dwyer said the project would bring jobs and investment to the city and contribute to relieving a housing shortage in Warrnambool.
"I know the council has been screaming for more of these inner city apartments; well here it is," Mr Dwyer said.
He said the plans brought Melbourne ideas of architecture to the city.
"To me, it adds a bit of class to the CBD," Mr Dwyer said.
"It's a big undertaking; I haven't seen any local developers coming in and proposing a development like this.
"It is going to help Fairy Street. With the amount of people using this street, it can only help the traders in the area," he said.
CL Takeway owner Robert King, whose business is next door to the site, described the plans as "impressive and futuristic".
Mr King said he believed the modern design complemented heritage buildings on Fairy Street.
"It complements our shop frontage and those nearby by having a bottom two layers with arches and bricks and then steps back into a futurist modern development," he said.
The Cally part-owner Lucas Reid echoed the sentiment, adding he was pleased the accommodation could potentially draw large groups to the city.
"The main appeal to me is that it will bring employment from all facets through the construction, build and ongoing," Mr Reid said.
"It's great someone has seen a site and has the ability to develop it to its potential."
Mr Romero, who played in the AFL for North Melbourne and Western Bulldogs, is hoping for a council decision on the project around November.
Plans state that local trades, contractors, manufacturers and suppliers will be used as first choice where possible.
The plans flag potential completion of the hotel by early to mid 2023.
A Romero Group spokesman said the business had a strategic focus on developments in regional Victoria and believed Warrnambool was set for significant growth in coming years.
"Warrnambool was earmarked as one of our choices," he said.
The spokesman said the plans had attempted to compliment the area's heritage.
"Planning is at an early stage and there could be slight modifications to this proposal," he said.
Callaghan Motors moved to Raglan Parade in 2017 after purchasing a new site in 2015.
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