Mount Buffalo Chalet faces part demolition

A huge slice of the historic Mount Buffalo Chalet will be demolished under a plan to return the once-luxurious residence to its former glory.

The state government wants to reopen the century-old resort by 2015 as a visitor centre and cafe, in a redevelopment they hope with attract future private investors to develop the hotel.

But the plan to spend more than $7.5 million restoring the dilapidated and abandoned property comes hand-in-hand with a significant demolition.

The tennis court, former staff quarters, garage and steam generator house are all on the chopping board. The main lounge, entry lobby, drawing room and ballroom will be saved.

In a letter to Heritage Victoria from the government, land management policy executive director Peter Beaumont said the decision to demolish the buildings had not been taken lightly.

Mr Beaumont said it was no longer economically viable to restore the entire chalet.

“The principle of the current proposal is to restore the core of the chalet to its former glory,” he said.

“It is not feasible to do this while retaining the many ad hoc additions, hence the strategic decision to remove the badly deteriorated fabric… to attract investor interest.”

The double-storey weatherboard residence is classified by the National Trust as a place of state significance and is also included in the Victorian Heritage Register for its architectural, historical and social significance.

Built in 1909, it expanded through the early 20th century to became the “largest and most luxurious resort of its type in Victoria and possibly Australia”.

But today the chalet, which has been empty since 2007, remains unconnected to mains power or sewage and had been labelled “old, inefficient and very expensive to run”.

In 2011 the government rejected a $50 million plan by the Mount Buffalo Community Enterprise Group to restore the hotel.

The group included Brown Brothers' chief winemaker John Brown, who on Wednesday he said the government's plan was a “practical” step in the right direction.

“I'm certainly in support of demolishing the old buildings out the back. They were very cheap-built buildings, that were far too small for a modern hotel,” Mr Brown said.

More than half of the redevelopment funding will be provided by an insurance payment received for Cresta Lodge after the 2006 fires. The state government is chipping in around $3 million.

The works are expected to begin in spring. Submissions on the plan are welcomed until February 5.

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