Stawell's former Mechanics Institute building in Main Street has been sold to owners with big ideas on how to bring the ageing building back to life.
The building was first erected in 1875 and was the site of the Mechanics Institute, School of Design and the Borough Library, and is now envisioned to become a grand attraction for residents and tourists.
IT specialist Gordon Williamson and his wife Michelle Williamson confirmed the purchase of the building early in February and they are already putting grand plans in place.
Mr Williamson said he and his wife started working with an architect and a designer to help transform the building into a fine dining and accommodation venue.
"What we are envisaging, obviously with everything subject to council approval, is using the down stairs as a commercial space and using the shop on the left as an entrance to the basement and using the basement as a wine bar or restaurant," he said.
"The basement is incredible, so we are planning to have it set up so there is some kind of food eatery/wine bar and on the right hand side there would be a shop that would complement the wine bar."
Mr Williamson also said he was hoping to transform the second level into a short-term accommodation space.
He also said they plan on leasing out the retail and hospitality aspect of the potential business, while they manage the accommodation.
"It would be available for someone to realise their dream," he said.
"Of all the spaces he (the architect) has seen, he thinks this building has a unique character, an outstanding character and we think the space would be ideal for somebody looking to make that tree change.
"All of these plans are subject to council approval, so when it gets moving, that is when we will spend more time in Stawell and that will give us time to explore everything the district has to offer.
"Every time we are in Stawell somebody tells us about something new we need to see or drives we need to do, so we are pretty excited about spending more time up in Stawell and exploring the district."
Mr Williamson said he and his wife fell in love with Stawell while searching for an older property out of their home town of Bacchus Marsh.
"I started looking at properties across country Victoria and I stumbled across the Mechanics Institute and I said to my wife 'it looks like an amazing building, we have to go and look at it',"
"It is an amazing building and what attracted us to Stawell was it reminded us a lot of Bacchus Marsh when we first moved here, and it is a nice country town and has a life about it."
"Sometimes with country towns they are alive or they are not, and the homes and properties in Stawell were well maintained and it was just a beautiful town and it was an amazing building and I said 'let's do what we can to secure it'.
"The times we have been up there, people have always been really friendly and stopped and spoken to us about the building and told us their little snippet about the Mechanic Institute and some stories.
"We aren't sure if they are 100 per cent true, but people have been really welcoming and wanting to know what we are doing and they have been give us their little story about what they want us to do.
"I really felt like this is one of those things I've really wanted to do and seeing this property and this opportunity it is a chance to realise a long dream for me.
"It will be a bit of a challenge to keep the old and the new, and given the age of the building and the historical significance of the building we want to retain the character in the common areas and in the apartments, make that more contemporary with commercial style."
In 2004 the Victorian Government completed a detailed Heritage Study into the site, where they declared the property as architecturally significant at a "local" level.
The report also stated the building is "valued by the Stawell Community as an important and long-serving cultural and community building.
This story was written with the help of the Stawell Historical Society.
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