Council’s hand-up in building modernisation

Date published: 22 November 2021

Townsville City Council is working with businesses and developers to improve the attractiveness, vibrancy and safety of the city centre and its fringe through its Modernising Buildings and Activating Spaces grant.

The Modernising Buildings and Activating Spaces grant is one element of Council’s City Activation and Jobs Growth Policy, which aims to generate investment and create employment opportunities for the city.

One developer taking advantage of the grant is Brodie Jankovic, owner of the Empire Hotel on the corner of Plume and McIlwraith Streets, who is currently returning the 120-year-old building, which has sat vacant for close to 20 years, back to its former glory.

Mr Jankovic said restoring the dilapidated building had been a process in itself, ensuring heritage charm could be retained while creating a modern feel for those who would enter the Empire’s doors.

“We want to pay tribute to the heritage of this amazing building. We got sick and tired of driving past the place rotting away, so thought we’d go all in and give it the respect it deserves,” Mr Jankovic said.

“We have received so much positive feedback from people while doing the work, so it’s terrific to have the support of the Council with this grant to ensure we can give the grand old dame the respect she deserves in restoration.

“Council has been extremely supportive of us taking on the huge task of renovating the Empire and we’ve been working alongside their heritage officers to abide by any heritage laws and make sure the building maintains its heritage charm.

“We’ve been able to support local jobs throughout the restoration and are very excited for what the future holds – watch this space.”

Mayor Jenny Hill said it was fantastic to see businesses invested in Townsville City.

“We’re so glad to have energetic businesspeople, like those who have taken on the Empire Hotel, who share our vision of wanting to see our city grow,” Cr Hill said.

“While any business must stand on their own two feet, providing an incentive such as this grant, which covers up to 50 per cent of the eligible repair works to a maximum of $30,000 per project, can make all the difference in activating our city centre and its fringe.

“We’ve seen great uptake on the Modernising Buildings and Activating Spaces grant, with six grants awarded last financial year and three so far this year.”

Community and Cultural Development Committee chair and local divisional councillor Ann-Maree Greaney said it was humbling to see the redeveloped hotel taking shape.

“It’s wonderful to see what was originally the Empire, and then the Republic, being restored to its former glory,” Cr Greaney said.

“Built in 1901, the Empire is part of Townsville’s heritage trail, meaning the building is heritage listed and renovations must comply with a number of heritage requirements.

“These grants aren’t just a cash hand-out, they’re a hand up, with our Council officers working with building owners to ensure the best outcome, including retaining heritage elements, as seen at the old Empire.”

Council provides incentives to provide opportunities for businesses, community groups, innovators and entrepreneurs for new projects and ideas that encourage visitation to the city and ignite the city heart.

Further information, eligibility criteria and CBD incentive grants can be found at City Activation and Jobs Growth Policy.

Brodie Jankovic and Cr Jenny Hill in the front bar of the Empire Hotel
Caption: Brodie Jankovic and Mayor Jenny Hill in the front bar of the Empire Hotel.