Work is progressing on a multifunctional entertainment and hospitality training hub in Tarbert St, Alexandra, although the original plans have been altered slightly.

Rory and Karen McLellan, who have owned McLellan’s Plumbing and Heating for 33 years, bought 19-21 Tarbert St in 2020 intending to create “a building and venue for everybody” and provide training for hospitality students.

Demolition has begun on the site of what was the Hotel Alexandra and the Town and Country Club, later Shooters Bar, and Mr McLellan said rebuilding was due to begin in two weeks’ time.

“We’re looking at opening in the new year,” he said.

Vincent Community Board chairman Martin McPherson said the town centre development was exciting, and added to a growing sense of optimism in town as other significant projects got under way.

These include a new Countdown Supermarket on Centennial Ave and Ventry St (scheduled to open later this year), a new rural fire service station planned for Centennial Ave, a proposed new commercial building for Stihl earmarked for a site near Pioneer Park, and the Riverside Park and Alexandra Miners Village development.

“The ratepayers are paying $650,000 [towards Riverside Park] and I am not privy to all the details of the others but these are multimillion investments. People really are excited,” Cr McPherson said.

Plans made for the hub two years ago called for three bars, including a rooftop bar; three kitchens; a restaurant; takeaway outlet; and accommodation.

Mr McLellan said the rooftop bar and accommodation had since been removed to streamline planning consents.

Updated plan . . . An artist’s impression of the multipurpose entertainment hub planned for 19-21 Tarbert St, Alexandra. IMAGE: SUPPLIED

He had never expected to be involved in such a project but said he and his wife loved Alexandra and felt such a complex was needed.

“We’re trying to entice people from outside the region so we need to improve our offerings.”

Mr McLellan has spent most of his life in Alexandra and Mrs McLellan was born there.

“The way I look at it is that Alexandra and Cromwell are some of the nicest places in the country, that is, the nicest places in the world,” he said.

“The way I look at it is that Alexandra and Cromwell are some of the nicest places in the country, that is, the nicest places in the world,” he said.

“Clyde has been well catered for but Alexandra is really lacking for a venue like this.”

The couple plan to develop the building and get it ready for operation, then look for staff and a manager to run the complex.

“Karen and I will only oversee the business,” he said.

“We understand the challenges at the moment and have the depth within the team to manage the operation.”

Preparing the site . . . Rory McLellan says demolition is well under way on the former Shooters Bar site and rebuilding will begin in the next fortnight.

Mr McLellan is also chairman of the Alexandra Riverside Park Trust, which has spent 10 years working to fund and develop Riverside Park — a waterside project to connect the CBD to the Clutha River.

He said the trust and the Central Otago District Council were making good progress to redevelop the area.

Cr McPherson said the McLellans had to be congratulated for the efforts they were putting into town centre revitalisation and turning people around to focus on “the wonderful junction” of the Clutha and Manuherekia Rivers.

“They really have invested in the community in a major way. Riverside Park — for 150 years we had turned our backs on the river and there would have been hundreds of dredges on it — it was an industrial site. It used to shut down at midnight on a Saturday and everything would go quiet.

“But now we look down on it and celebrate the wonderful junction of the Manuherekia and the Clutha. It is a real asset for recreation, for storytelling, for iwi involvement and history.

“Aesthetically it will be a real boost. It will attract cars down off the bridge and into that area,” Cr McPherson said.

He believed the McLellan’s new building would be a major asset for the river junction end of town, if the design details of another project completed by the McLellan’s nearby was anything to go by.

“I was sitting at home looking out the window and could see a crane on the skyline. That’s something I have never seen in Alexandra before,” he said.