THE POSITIVES keep coming for Toowoomba — one of the highest grossing agricultural areas in Australia, contributing 11 per cent of Queensland’s value-added agriculture. Moreover, agriculture generated $743million in value-added produce from the region, an increase of 48 per cent over the past decade.
When the Wagner family developed and built the first privately-funded major airport in Australia, and the first new airport in the nation since 1970, Brisbane West Wellcamp Airport became the international hub for exporting Darling Downs produce into Asia and beyond. It should be noted that Toowoomba exports 70 per cent of the nation’s agricultural output; in 2015, that was worth $1.13 billion.
Recently the Inland Rail received Federal Government go-ahead to link Melbourne and Toowoomba, and those involved are already planning extensions.
EXCITING TIMES: http://agalert.com.au/exciting-times-inland-railway-beyond-imagination/
BIRTH OF A RAILWAY: http://agalert.com.au/birth-of-a-railway-as-told-by-everald-compton/
Adjacent to the airport is the Charlton Wellcamp Industrial Area that will service both airport and inland. And in addition, work is currently progressing on the second range crossing.
Such infrastructure ensures a steady flow of business people, visitors and tourists to the entire Darling Downs and the west, and has seen the development of quality accommodation houses throughout the area.
It was in 1957 that the Lennons hotel chain opened a multi-storey hotel in Ruthven Street, designed by a famous architect called Karl Langer.
In 2004, the property was purchased by the Hakfoort Group, controlled by former Mt Isa businessman, the late Albert Hakfoort, who immigrated to Australia with his parents and family soon after world war two.
Owning a chain of hotels across Queensland — from Brisbane to Mt Isa — and for some years a Board member of the Australian Transport and Energy Corridor, with a vital interest in the Inland Rail, Albert senior could see the potential of Toowoomba and envisaged a five-star hotel for the inland city. But he was to pass-away in January 2015 before his plans were realised.
Last week-end, the Burke & Wills Hotel in Toowoomba closed its doors to allow for a complete refurbishment of the hotel. The hotel retains a ‘local heritage overlay,’ restricting what can be done to the outside. The internal re-development will incorporate 85 rooms, 15 of which will be five-star suites with 70 four-and-a-half-star hotel rooms, five function rooms, two restaurants and a bar.
Now under the control of Albert Hakfoort junior and Albert senior’s widow, Dianne, the hotel is destined to re-open in March 2018 as a four-and-a-half star hotel and five star facilities.
To become a five star hotel, we are required to have a concierge, swimming pool and gymnasium,” said Albert junior.
“It is a complete refurbishment from top to bottom — a $10 million investment in Toowoomba — and we’re are turning the old place inside out. There will be less rooms in the new-look hotel, as we are making the rooms bigger. And there will be a bigger car park.”
“The new Burke & Wills will be of major benefit to the city,” he added. “It is a total internal and external refurbishment that sets a new standard for luxury accommodation in Toowoomba,” he said.
This Sunday, June 18, a sale of heritage, vintage and antique furniture from the 90 rooms and suites will be sold on-site in a one-of-a-kind event.
Everything is to be sold at competitive prices — bedside tables, desks, lamps, chairs, bathroom accessories, artwork, linen, and more.
“It’s not an auction, all items will have a price tag,” Albert Hakfoort said.
Toowoomba’s civic fathers have a progressive attitude, with more than its fair share of entrepreneurs willing to have a go.
The sad part of this huge development on Brisbane’s doorstep is that Toowoomba doesn’t have a passenger rail service, unlike the Gold and Sunshine Coasts that are of similar distance from the capital.
Brisbane gets cross river rail; yet another regional centre misses-out — yet the major rail infrastructure is already in place.