ONE OF Bendigo's most important tourist attractions needs state cash by May if a multimillion dollar renovation is to be completed in time for the 2026 Commonwealth Games.
Plans for the Bendigo Art Gallery must be "investment ready" in time for the next state budget cycle, City of Greater Bendigo officers say.
They have asked councillors to release $600,000 to finish designs, which would be matched by the art gallery's board.
Councillors will consider the proposal when they meet on Monday night.
Failure to release the money could have a domino effect on the state and federal funding proponents are currently lobbying for, council officers have warned.
That is because the recent announcement that Bendigo would co-host the 2026 Commonwealth Games has provided a hard deadline for works to finish.
"If the project is not funded in the next budget cycle it is unlikely the project will be funded until after the Commonwealth Games due to the 24 month construction period," council officers said.
The gallery wants to spend $28 million adding a second-storey to the View Street building, along with more exhibition space with retail areas, a forecourt and landscaping.
A team of architects, engineers and museum experts are currently designing plans that are expected to go out for community consultation later this month, or in early August.
They are confident the redevelopment can be finished in time for the Games.
That could prove to be a windfall for Bendigo and its tourist sector.
The gallery's latest blockbuster exhibition Elvis: Direct from Graceland helped kickstart the post-pandemic rebuild, with huge crowds flocking from across the country.
A revamped gallery would act as a Games "cultural hub" in 2026, showcasing international exhibitions, events, film screenings and a major education program in its purpose-built learning centre.
Blockbuster exhibitions have become increasingly important for Bendigo's tourism and hospitality sectors in recent decades.
The three month Elvis exhibition brought at least 219,000 visitors to the gallery, roughly 11 times more than everyone who attended over the entire year in 1988.
Many were from out of town.
The gallery's two-year closure for redevelopment works could impact tourism by potentially closing off options for blockbuster exhibitions.
Under current timelines, the gallery would close for renovations in June, 2023 and reopen in July, 2025.
That has prompted one community leader to call on decision makers to rethink their approaches to the View Street tourist precinct.
National Trust president Peter Cox recently called for that precinct to be extended into Pall Mall, and for more money to be spent on ageing heritage buildings including a former Bendigo School of Mines building and the Bendigo Law Court.
"I don't think governments at all levels are considering the seriousness of buildings in Pall Mall potentially falling into disrepair," he said.
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