A PRIVATE group is selling 23 acres of prime industrial real estate in what the City of Greater Bendigo hopes will ease a mounting land shortage.
Ballarat-based real estate outfit Colliers International has begun advertising the East Bendigo blocks, which sit close to the airport on the site of what was once planned to be the Bendigo food precinct.
Senior executive Travis Hurst said he was particularly keen to speak to developers and investors interested in opening up the land, given the intense shortage of vacant industrial sites in the city.
His group's recent research suggests only 1.6 per cent of vacant industrial land is available to businesses.
"There's virtually no land, apart from a couple of big parcels of which this is one," he said.
A developer could theoretically fill the land within three years or less if they divided the land into the right sizes, Mr Hurst said.
That would effectively plug the gap in the market for the short term.
Bendigo's council last year found the city would need space for an extra 3300 industrial workers by 2037. That would help it keep up both with population growth.
The council believed existing industry players like Fosterville gold miners Kirkland Lake Gold would continue to expand, providing the bedrock for more businesses into the region.
"As it stands, there is currently less than 100 hectares of available land, a maximum of 11 years supply, and only a handful of large sites more than one hectare remaining in Greater Bendigo," the council stated in its 2020 industrial land strategy.
Dreams of transforming the land into an industrial estate go back at least two decades.
The City of Greater Bendigo first revealed ambitions for the vacant land in the early-2000s, when it rezoned the site in the hopes of creating a food manufacturing hub to rival others popping up in country towns.
That plan failed.
Only one food company moved onto the site and the rest sat idle.
The council ended rezoned the site so that the businesses that could use it were not only food manufacturers.
Two companies currently have a footprint at the site but there is room for many more.
Council executive director Craig Niemann could only speculate about why the land had not been transformed sooner.
He suspected that a range of factors had played out through the 2000s - in particular - that likely dampened industry enthusiasm for blocks at the site.
But Mr Niemann said COVID-19 appeared to have turned industry assumptions about regional Victoria upside down.
"Who would have thought that COVID-19 would have led to an increase in land prices, not a reduction?" he said.
"So we are in a time when there are all these unique factors impacting on land prices and where people want to work and live."
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Mr Hurst said Melbourne-based investors and businesses had definitely changed their mindsets when it came to regional Victoria.
"They see a really bright future in regional Victoria, so we have seen more economic activities and people seeking to relocate or expand their operations in places like Bendigo and Ballarat."
Mr Niemann said the East Bendigo site was a particularly good prize for anyone hoping to move to regional areas.
"It's very developable, it's got the right zoning and controls in place and it is well positioned because it has transport linkages to and from the site," he said.
"Hopefully someone acquires the site and gets it up and running. That's ultimately what we want to see, whether through factories or other industrial uses, that there is employment on the site.
"That's the key to it all."
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