THE City of Greater Bendigo will invest $72,000 in repurposing two former public toilets in Hargreaves Mall, which will become spaces for pop-up business.
Works on each of the two 'lanterns' will cost $36,000.
The city said the costs covered bringing the former toilets to the standard required of a food-grade outlet.
"All work is being done by local contractors," a spokesperson said.
Works start tomorrow and are expected to be done by the end of September.
Alternative public toilets in the Bendigo CBD include the changing places in the multi-storey car park in Hargreaves Street, the facilities at the Edward Street multi-storey car park, and the toilet block at Lyttleton Terrace.
ONCE, they were the toilets Bendigo residents considered as a last resort.
The City of Greater Bendigo is hopeful about three months of refurbishments will transform the two structures in the Hargreaves Mall into beacons for pop-up businesses.
Efforts to repurpose the buildings, which the city said were known as lanterns, were expected to be completed by the end of September.
Works get underway on Wednesday.
City of Greater Bendigo strategy and growth director Bernie O'Sullivan said the project was an opportunity to support small businesses coming out of the pandemic to market themselves in a unique way in the city centre and stimulate retail activity.
The city said the spaces would be suitable for businesses looking to raise their profile and promote themselves in the heart of the city, while complementing existing businesses in the mall.
Expressions of interest will open once the works are close to completion.
Mr O'Sullivan said the project was identified in the Transforming the Bendigo City Centre Action Plan.
"We have been able to bring this forward due to savings made from not running events and activities in the mall due to the restrictions associated with the pandemic," he said.
It is not known how much the works will cost the city.
The lanterns opened in 2010, as part of the mall's redevelopment.
They closed in early March. The City of Greater Bendigo said the building interiors had already been gutted.
"The toilets were often vandalised, damaged or treated very poorly and as a result were often 'out of service'," Mr O'Sullivan said.
He said the toilets received "a significant amount of negative comments" when the city's public toilet strategy was being developed.
Most people avoided them if at all possible, Mr O'Sullivan said.
"They were seen as a toilet of last resort, and only had limited capacity with only two toilets being available," he said.
He credited the refurbishment of the "much larger" public toilet in the multi-storey car park in Hargreaves Street with helping bring the project forward.
Asked why some of the vacant stores in the mall couldn't be adapted to achieve the same aims, Mr O'Sullivan said the city did not own any properties in the mall.
"Landowners are able to lease their properties for pop-up businesses should they want to," he said.
Installing a new shade structure for the mall is also part of the city's plan to "further invigorate the vibrancy of the city centre as a great place to relax, shop and do business."
Its draft 2020/21 budget includes $500,000 for the project.
Submissions to the draft budget closed last week.
"The designs for the structure are due to be released in the coming months and the community will be given the opportunity to provide input," the City of Greater Bendigo said in a statement.