And every time the prospect was being touted there seemed to be an equally strong counter current comprising roughly equal parts of It’ll never happen and We like our little town the way it is, thank you very much.
Finally, in the late nineties, the place hit pretty close to rock bottom when the Merinda meatworks closed. While that was a disaster in the short term, a couple of positive developments came out of it.
By 2000 research had identified a number of projects around the shire which would provide a basis for future growth, and, for some reason, an outside developer with capital arrived in town.
His first project was a shopping complex close to the existing commercial centre, a development which left many locals shaking their heads and expressing the usual opinion - It’ll never work.
Based on previous experience, the closure of the meatworks and the number of vacant shops in the commercial centre, their scepticism was probably justified, and there was more than one I told you so when several of the shops in the complex remained vacant for some time after construction had been completed.
However, while this was happening, other properties around town were being acquired and other projects floated. The most ambitious of them was a condominium-style apartment block, motel and retail complex to be located on the Front Beach across the road from the Grand View.
Given its history as an industrial site, before any development would be allowed to proceed the ground needed to be cleaned up. There were issues regarding possible contamination of the waters of Port Denison, so it wasn’t just a matter of gaining approval from Bowen Shire Council. Various other government agencies needed to be satisfied, and, anyone with a nodding acquaintance with processes involving bureaucracy knows that those processes don’t happen overnight.
And while those processes are in progress, it’s happening, more or less behind closed doors,away from the eyes of the general public.
While the contaminated soil was being removed removed and preparatory excavations made, potential buyers were supposed to be queuing up to buy off the plan. In the end, although the preliminaries were more or less out of the way, the number of potential customers fell short of the number needed to finance the first stage of construction, so the project lapsed and we were left with the hole in the ground.
In hindsight, that’s just as well, because while the site was widely regarded as an eyesore, if it had been developed in any way Mr Luhrmann would probably have been making his movie somewhere else.