EXCLUSIVE: Huge plans for run-down mystery CBD hotel
AFTER six years of gathering dust and speculation from locals, Rockhampton's enigmatic seven-story Plaza Hotel is about to begin a new chapter.
Vision Hotel Group Director Brendon Deeley has revealed exclusively to The Morning Bulletin that his company had signed a management partnership agreement in December with the Taiwanese Chang family who were the freehold owners of the building.
He said they were now working hard and spending thousands of dollars to get the hotel ready to reopen in early March.
Gold Coast-based Mr Deeley, along with his brother Mark Deeley and their close mate Peter Hill, own the Vision Hotel Group which operates hotels in Townsville, Hobart, Launceston, and Adelaide.
Recognising Rockhampton's positive rebound after the mining downturn and its bright future driven by a pipeline of major infrastructure projects, Mr Deeley said they were on the lookout for an opportunity to put down roots in the city when the Plaza Hotel pinged on their radar.
"We knew the Plaza Hotel was closed down so we started a conversation with the building owner not quite a year ago and those conversations went on throughout the year to come up with a good way forward," Mr Deeley said.
"Finally we put it all together late last year and now everyone's working their backsides off to try and get the place up to a standard where it can reopen.
"When you haven't opened a business in so long, you want to test everything first and make sure everything is working."
To ensure everything was shipshape, a steady procession of local tradies are making a beeline to the Plaza, with Mr Deeley estimating it would cost between $100,000-150,000 before the doors were reopened to guests.
"The beds are all being refurbished, we want to make sure we have the most comfortable beds in Rockhampton," he said.
The swimming pool was estimated to cost between $30,000-50,000 to restore and the elevator was expected to cost $12,000 to fix.
The hotel's main airconditioner is operational but a number of the room's airconditioners will either need to be fixed or replaced.
While most of the original furniture in the hotel's 66 rooms remains in good condition, some of the decor will need updating.
Mr Deeley said Vision waslooking to spend a total of $500,000 over the next two years to progressively upgrade the hotel.
He said it wasn't simply a matter of going through and physically restoring the hotel itself but also addressing the behind the scenes elements of the business, to update the website, marketing to raise the hotel's dormant profile,, finding someone to run the attached restaurant and recruiting 15 to 20 staff to run the hotel.
"We're going to need a full team of receptionists, cleaners, maintenance people, all of that which comes with any hotel.
Vision was still finalising details about staff recruitment but expected to start advertising and interviewing for positions in coming weeks.
In addition to finding staff, Mr Deeley said they were looking for an experienced restaurateur to lease and run the hotel's restaurant.
It was Rockhampton's location in Queensland that was a major attraction for Vision's interest in establishing a presence.
It was looking to capitalise on the business traveller market that tended to concentrate in CQ in addition to South East Queensland in Brisbane and in North Queensland at Townsville.
The convenient location next to the Bruce Highway, on one of Rockhampton's busiest roads was also an ideal way for them to capitalise on the market of travellers passing through the city.
Mr Deeley believed the hotel's double glazed windows gave them a distinct advantage by comprehensively blocking out the noise from the neighbouring highway.
"As far as I'm aware, it's the only hotel in Rockhampton that has double glazed windows," he said.
"In my experience it's pretty hard to get a good night's sleep because there's a lot of trucks going through Rocky.
"But when you go into our rooms, they're nice and cool and you don't hear a thing."
Compared to other cities, Mr Deeley believed that Rockhampton didn't have an oversupply of accommodation options which would work in their favour.
They intended to offer their rooms at a competitive price to capture different markets, included the visiting defence force people who were often in town for military operations at the Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area.