An idea to develop a major convention, reception and community centre on the banks of the Wimmera River in Horsham has attracted the interest of independent investors.
Member for Lowan Emma Kealy confirmed two prominent Horsham people had approached her on separate occasions, seeking information about a project to ‘open up’ a river precinct.
Ms Kealy launched the concept, identifying the southern end of Horsham Showground east of Wimmera Bridge as a prime community development site, earlier this year. She then followed up by gaining the backing of Victoria’s Coalition, which promised to invest $150,000 to plan for river-precinct development if the Liberal -Nationals won government later this month.
Ms Kealy said her personal preference was for the project to involve a reception or convention centre with function space that might include restaurant, café and public space areas.
She said as well as being an important social development product for the people of Horsham district, being strategically placed near the bridge and Western Highway traffic, it would also be a major tourism attraction.
Ms Kealy said the independent investors approached her after the Liberal-nationals had pledged financial help with planning.
“It was obvious this idea immediately captured the imagination of the community – not just the average person in the street but also others with entrepreneurial credentials who could see the concept’s potential,” she said.
“What this tells us is that this idea is gathering momentum and could be a turning point for Horsham’s position as a regional city.”
Ms Kealy said if enough or the right type of interest came from the private sector, the project might qualify for Public Private Partnership.
Victorian Public Private Partnerships, PPPS, are contractual relationships between the state and private sector to establish public infrastructure and related services.
“This would be a considerable achievement for Horsham if it could happen,” Ms Kealy said.
“It is highly unusual for rural and regional developments and it usually only happens in metropolitan areas – but the fact we’re even discussing it suggests the concept is a good idea.”
Ms Kealy said confidentiality meant she could not reveal either of the interested parties but confirmed they were from Horsham and ‘definitely’ interested in pursing the idea.
The area Ms Kealy has pinpointed for her idea of a riverfront development includes ageing stables, a sugar-gum tree plantation and a walking track.
Horsham Rural City Council is developing an umbrella vision for Horsham’s central activity district and river precinct.
The Cbd-river Precinct Project covers an area that includes river frontage from the showground to Horsham Caravan Park and pushes north to Baillie Street.