HALLS GAP - Construction of stage two of the Halls Gap Community and Tourism Hub will begin next month.
Northern Grampians Shire Council has awarded the contract for the second stage of the project to Onleys Holdings Pty Ltd.
"We were very pleased to award the contract to Onley Holdings Pty Ltd. They have done work for Northern Grampians Shire on a number of projects in the past, including the children centre at Taylor's Gully and Shop 108 and 109 in Main Street," said Northern Grampians Shire Council CEO Justine Linley.
Onley Holdings was selected because of its use of local content and local suppliers which is one of the key criteria for council when it awards contracts for projects.
"We always ask tenders to demonstrate how many local people, what sort of local product and the percentage of that. That is only one component, but a very important component," Ms Linley said.
"Onley Holdings are very strong in using local businesses and local contractors and were also the cheapest tender."
Associated drainage, underground power and other works have commenced adjacent to the site.
Major construction will begin after the Halls Gap Visitor Information Centre (VIC) is temporarily relocated to Brambuk - The National Park and Cultural Centre.
The Visitor Information Centre will also trial having a mobile tourism officer in the main shopping area during times of high visitation.
Ms Linley said council was working to make sure tourists and locals were kept informed at every stage of the process.
"We realise we are coming in to the busy spring period and we don't want to cause disruptions for people," she said.
"One of the critical things is that we provide really good signage and plenty of opportunities for visitors to get the right information about what is going on."
Over the next year the site will be transformed into a vibrant community facility, which will link the Visitor Information Centre and the Halls Gap Centenary Hall in the heart of town.
A brand new village square will also be constructed, with members of the community still being consulted about its design.
"We are hoping for a 12 month construction period, not taking in to account any unforeseen delays, but in that time the whole site will be transformed," she said.
There will also be some refurbishments in parts of the community hall with minimal disruption expected to the people that use it.
New public toilets are currently being built off site and will be permanently installed near the Halls Gap Pool to ensure adequate facilities are available.
This will allow the existing temporary toilets at the VIC to be shifted once works commence.
The Centenary Hall toilets will be closed to the general public while works are undertaken at the VIC, however they will still be available to hall users.
In the event that the toilets near the Halls Gap Pool are not completed before construction works commence, portable toilets will be made available.
Council was able to proceed with stage two of the project following a funding announcement from the Australian Government in May.
A grant of $500,000 was provided under the Regional Development Australia Fund and a further $500,000 investment was received from the State Government through the Regional Growth Fund's Putting Locals First Program.
Plans for the project include public toilet facilities and space for conducting exhibitions, performances and community activities, as well as multi-purpose rooms for office or commercial use.
The project has been listed as a community priority for more than 30 years and will provide a focal point for the town and a first stop for the one million tourists that visit the Grampians each year.
"Some people have been surprised that we have been able to make it happen, but now there is the belief that yes it really is happening," Ms Linley said.
"Because it has been in the planning for so long we have worked hard to develop original concepts.
"To make sure we have a facility to take us in to the next sixty years not just the next few."
Plans for Stage 2 of the Halls Gap Community and Tourism Hub are available to view at Northern Grampians Shire Council's Customer Service Centre in Stawell.
The plans are also on display at the Halls Gap Visitor Information Centre.