Uni to rise from the ashes?

AT 6.36pm six months ago, almost to the day, emergency services were inundated with triple-0 calls as the historic Universal Hotel burnt.

Yesterday marked the first stages of its demolition, and owners are vowing to re-build.

While the demolition crews started to pull down the dangerously precarious burned remains of the 102-year-old structure, there was some confusion as to who was responsible for the machinery. Co-owner Terry Hangan said he hoped to re-build “a modern nightclub as soon as insurance was finalised” and had an agreement with Southern Downs Regional Council to level the charred ruins upon the impending insurance payout.

“There have been some problems with insurance but it looks to be in the final stages,” Mr Hangan said.

“All depending on insurance, we hope to build a two-storey hotel very soon. We always intended to re-build as the young people need somewhere to go and we still have our extended (liquor) licence.

“The reports have come back, which have ruled out arson. So that will stop the sleuthhounds and the rumour mills.”

Mr Hangan said he empathised with neighbouring business and residents who previously labelled the remains “an eyesore” as there were safety concerns after a gust of wind blew over a shaky wall on February 1.

“It’s been going on for far too long,” Mr Hangan said.

“It’s sad to see it gone because of all memories but the demolition was overdue.

“We had a good relationship with our neighbours and I felt sympathetic to their concerns.”

However an SDRC spokeswoman said the Universal Hotel owners had not responded to their early February notice to clean up the site, forcing the SDRC to act.

“They didn’t respond to the initial notice, therefore council has employed contractors to demolish the building, which should be completed by Friday,” the spokeswoman said.

“The cost of the demolition will be billed to the owners.

“CEO Rod Ferguson has advised that owners of the Universal Hotel have been issued with an enforcement notice to clean up the site.

“The owners had seven days to lodge an application for demolition.

“Upon lodging an application for demolition, on February 5, they then had two weeks to complete the demolition.

“Council has signalled to the owners that failure to comply with either requirement means that council will demolish the building.”

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