By Luke Voogt
The Ritz Hotel is set to open next month after an extensive redevelopment of the site, which previously sat derelict for decades.
Built circa 1854 and formerly known as the Belle-Vue Hotel, the heritage-listed central Geelong building was retained as an investment by Tim Truong for more than 30 years.
Mr Truong lodged several applications over decades to develop the site, beginning in 1984, as the building deteriorated due to vandals, squatters and numerous fires.
Over the years the derelict building drew the ire of mayors, councillors and Geelong residents alike, who labelled it an eyesore.
Anger over the condition of the building resulted in the December 2014 introduction of a neighbourhood amenity law, nicknamed ‘The Ritz law’, allowing council to fine the owners $2000 a month.
In late 2016 council successfully prosecuted Mr Truong and wife Diem Truong for allowing the building to fall into a state of dilapidation and ignoring council notices to repair it.
Geelong Magistrates’ Court convicted the Truongs of six charges and ordered them to pay a fine of $12,000 plus $5000 costs.
In early 2017 a syndicate of investors under the name Bellarine Heights bought the site for $4.5 million.
In December that year Planning Minister Richard Wynne approved developer Integrated Development Solutions’ plans for a $30.8 million redevelopment.
In August 2019 workers completed the demolition of the building’s interior.
“The building was so fragile it took approximately half a million dollars of engineering works to hold the façade together,” Integrated Development Solutions’ owner Phil Petch said.
Later that year, Ireland Brown Constructions began work on the luxury hotel building and the restoration of the original facade.
“What you see now [of the facade] is what you saw in 1854,” Mr Petch said.
The new 4.5-star short-stay hotel features 128 serviced apartments on nine levels, with the majority boasting views of the waterfront.
The building has been designed for energy efficiency, with 80 solar panels on its roof and a seven-star energy rating for guest rooms.
The hotel has seven levels of undercover parking, dedicated bike areas and two solar-powered electric vehicle charge stations.
The rooms feature Victorian-made beds, Geelong-made tables and artwork from Melbourne, as part of the developers’ bid to source interior fittings and furnishings “as much as possible” from Geelong and Australian makers.
The Ritz Hotel, Geelong is scheduled to officially open on March 1.