IT IS time to reinvigorate Pall Mall by reviving the spirit that transformed View Street into a tourist Mecca, a heritage advocate says.
The alternative could see ageing and abandoned buildings dragging on the city centre's economy, the National Trust Bendigo branch president Peter Cox fears.
He wants discussions reminiscent of those that transformed View Street in the late 1990s from a tired street into the city's premiere tourist hub.
"I don't think governments at all levels are considering the seriousness of buildings in Pall Mall potentially falling into disrepair," he said.
The comments come as the city's legal community prepares to move out of the Bendigo Law Courts, leaving behind a huge space with no clear plans for what will come next.
Further up the road, Bendigo TAFE is moving classes out of the heritage Bendigo School of Mines building.
Mr Cox said that would leave more space that will need to be filled.
Tax and ratepayers will likely have to spend money to help repurpose those buildings, underscoring the need for coordinated responses and detailed planning, he said.
That need has taken on greater significance in the week since the Advertiser revealed the Bendigo Art Gallery would close for two years during an upcoming renovation, Mr Cox said.
Next year's shutdown would temporarily cut off one of Bendigo's biggest tourism drawcards.
Mr Cox did not criticise that decision but said the closure illustrated the risk of Bendigo putting too many eggs in too few baskets.
One solution might be in Bendigo's past, he said.
Three decades ago, consultants bluntly told councillors Rosalind Park was "in a state of neglect", and many View Street buildings were "in a poor condition internally".
They had found View Street in a state of flux, with grand old buildings that looked OK - if a little dated - on the outside and in poor condition internally.
The Bendigo Art Gallery had brought in less than 20,000 visitors in 1988, less than a tenth of what it has so far raked in during the blockbuster three month exhibition Elvis: Direct From Graceland.
The gallery at the time lagged a host of other attractions including Bendigo Pottery, which in 1988 had 140,000 visitors, and retailers lining View Street were not focused on tourists.
The situation spoke to a wider problem with the way Bendigo saw its heritage and history.
Cities like Ballarat were drawing in hundreds and thousands of tourists to venues like the Sovereign Hill theme park and stately art gallery, consultants noted.
"There is a great need to revitalise and restore this Precinct so that it may be enjoyed by future generations," they said in a 1992 report that shaped Bendigo council actions for the next decade.
Exactly what a modern day Pall Mall plan would entail is yet to become clear.
One idea that had been circulating last year included turning the precinct into a centre for the preservation of history.
Then-mayor Jen Alden said early discussions about multiple ideas had begun.
"If you look at what we [already] promote to tourists you have all these attractions like the Sacred Heart Cathedral, Soldiers Memorial Institute, Golden Dragon Museum and a range of others," she said at the time.
"So the question becomes what we do to complement all of those offerings."
Any ideas would have to balance the needs of multiple businesses and residents through the precinct, and have realistic ideas to stop grand heritage buildings crumbling.
That too was a major focus for consultants worried about the future of View Street's heritage buildings back in 1992.
"The City of Bendigo cannot survive as a museum," they said at the time.
"Resources are not available to council or other responsible authorities to dedicate to the restoration and maintenance of this Precinct.
"In addition, it is doubtful as to whether this approach would in the long term be in the public's interest."
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