Bega Valley Shire Council has revealed what has long been suspected in the community, that it sold the Hotel Australasia in Eden for $150,000 to builder Neil Rankin and a partner, after buying it for $535,000.
The hotel has been part of a long-running saga which saw it purchased by council in 2016 for $535,000.
In a close vote council acknowledged it may have a funding commitment of up to $1m to purchase, remediate the site and renovate the facade, subject to grant funding and community contribution - the $1m included the purchase price.
In a statement on Wednesday, May 13 council said it had purchased the historic building on Imlay Street in 2016, responding to community fear the much-loved watering hole would be demolished.
In 2018 the building was still languishing in a dilapidated state and during the course of the council meeting it was revealed that costs associated with the hotel had by then topped $700,000 with almost $70,000 ($69,821) spent on maintenance of the building.
The same year council believed it had sold the hotel to Irisha and Rubycove with a side deed to ensure restoration milestones were met by the purchaser. There was a public positive covenant to complete the restoration works, development and use of laneway and ensure ongoing maintenance of the hotel facade.
But the deal fell through and it was later revealed that a director of Irisha was a fraudster.
In April this year builder Neil Rankin said he had settled on the building and had already started work in the hotel's restoration.
Clearly passionate about the hotel and its heritage, Mr Rankin outlined his plan.
"Doing the front facade is the next step and it will re-instate it to the 1904 original heritage look. We will bring it back to the look when it was first built, that's step one. At the same time we will be working inside to replace or upgrade services such as sewer, stormwater, plumbing and power."
He said the facade restoration was a key part of the contract for sale and a bank guarantee backed up the priority work.
On May 13 council said that while the sale of the building was only finalised this week, the contract with council allowed the new owners to start the redevelopment prior.
"The building is now on the shire's heritage register and following settlement this week between council and the Australasia Property Unit Trust, is now set for a bright future," council said.
"Had council not acted when we did, the opportunities we are now realising would not be possible," mayor Sharon Tapscott said.
"To see local firms, led by Rankin Builders on the job and revealing the 1920's facade we have all longed to see is very exciting.
"And a just reward for community members like Eden's Hotel Australasia group who have shared this vision."
"All involved are keen to get going, we all want this grand old lady to make a contribution again to the local economy and community," Cr Tapscott said.
"Through negotiation with council the new owners will restore the original 1920's facade and maintain community access to the adjoining laneway and public car park at the rear," council said.
"In order to progress the redevelopment and acknowledging the high cost of the works needed the final sale price negotiated was $150,000," council said in its statement.
"In any sale you always want the highest price, but we approached this wanting to achieve something that is difficult to measure right now in dollars and cents," Cr Tapscott said.
"This is a project that helps shape a new future for Eden, it builds community, jobs, and new opportunities.
"I know there have been differing views in our community around council's involvement in this project, but I have no doubt as people see its future unfold those concerns will ease."