Phoenix still waiting to rise from ashes
THE OWNER of the property destroyed in Maclean's worst fire blames Clarence Valley Council for the site remaining a vacant block of land.
Ten years ago to the day, Dale James' Boulevard Cafe complex was engulfed in flames from a fire believed to have started in one of the upstairs residences of the building.
In all, four businesses and three residences were destroyed, three firemen were injured and the damage bill soared into the millions of dollars.
And ever since the land in Maclean's CBD has remained unused, despite its prime position and a number of opportunities to put it to use.
At the time of the fire it was reported Mr James had just agreed to sell the building for $1.1million, but as contracts had not been exchanged, the sale fell through.
Mr James said his plans to redevelop the site had been frustrated because he has waited for two council decisions on nearby developments: firstly the Maclean supermarket development and now the McLachlan Park revamp.
"Five years ago I was ready to redevelop the site," he said.
"I was just waiting for the council to make a decision on the site of the supermarket," he said.
"At one stage there were plans to build on land out the back of my place," he said. "I was frustrated because I was not sure what they were going to do."
He said at one stage he offered to sell the land to the council for car parking, "but they never got back to me."
"It turned out to be a complete debacle," he said.
"I don't want to have two projects going in the same area at the same time," he said.
"McLachlan Park has turned out to be another council debacle. They can't even get a tiny, little park sorted.
"They've had three different consultants on top of the Butterworth Plan and they don't seem any closer to getting it finished."
Mr James said he is ready to go with the project, but still has some misgivings.
"I'm 67. I wonder if at this stage of my life if I want to take the risk of investing $1.2million for something that might only return me 1% more than I can get for my money in secure bonds," he said.
And if he does go ahead, Mr James said it won't happen overnight.
"Even if council has the park ready by September this year, the earliest I would start would be Easter 2017," he said.
"I wouldn't start any earlier so I can avoid the wet season here.
"You wouldn't start any building project here before Easter."
The council was contacted for comment on Friday, but no-one was available to be interviewed .
The Daily Examiner will print the council's reply to next week.