DES Davey has a vision for Airlie Beach – he wants to put the heart back into the town.
The former civil engineer has always wanted to develop the building in the centre of the Airlie main street and 16 years after buying it, he’s about to realise his dream.
Demolition of the old building is currently under way on site and construction is about to start on the town’s new Heart Hotel, with the look of the finished building now revealed.
Mr Davey said the brief he gave to main street and Port of Airlie designer Gary Hunt was for a beach house Queenslander surrounded by tall Darwin palms.
“The brief was to design a building that will look good in 50 years time,” he said.
“It had to look attractive from all four sides, (and) it had to have retail ground floor space.”
Knowing that to make it commercially viable he had to build up, Mr Davey came up with the idea for Heart Hotel.
“I didn’t want to have units – there’s enough of that in Airlie Beach, but what we’re often short of is hotel rooms,” he said.
But to Mr Davey it’s not just about the external building look. This is about bringing the community along for the ride.
In keeping with the saying that “home is where the heart is”, he wants the hotel to embody the Whitsunday way of life.
“I want it to be more than just a bed for the night – I want people to be able to come and stay and get to know Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays better than just a boat ride and a snorkel,” he said.
Mr Davey said he planned to theme the hotel with Whitsunday history, including historic records and photographs of local people from the agriculture, marine, tourism, aviation sectors and more.
He said he’d be on the lookout for memorabilia of old councillors, “old characters – things that have changed, cyclone history (and so on)”.
“We won’t have pictures of fish and palm trees in the rooms – it’ll be pictures of real people so (guests) get a sense of what the place used to be like,” he said.
It’s been a long journey for Mr Davey to get to this point and in the past decade he has almost sold the space twice.
Describing these as expensive lessons, he expressed a sense of relief to finally be re-developing on his own.
“It’s an end to all the drama,” he said, adding this was also a new beginning in terms of encouraging investment into Airlie Beach.
As for the name Heart Hotel, Mr Davey believes it’s a perfect fit.
“We’re in the heart of town and with our Whitsunday history we want the hotel to have some heart and be connected with the community,” he said
“I think it’s going to bring Airlie Beach to life.”