September 27, 2021

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Planted in

Hotel Vera has a sustainable lens.

David Cook-Doulton always thought Ballarat had a world-class feel. He can see it in the wide streets, the grand buildings, the city’s confidence. The glint of gold still in the air. To a designer with a luxe aesthetic and a deep respect for quality, Ballarat seemed like the perfect place to realise a very particular dream. And so, with partner and marketing guru Martin Shew on board, Hotel Vera was born.

TREES PLANTED

250

David Cook-Doulton always thought Ballarat had a world-class feel. He can see it in the wide streets, the grand buildings, the city’s confidence. The glint of gold still in the air. To a designer with a luxe aesthetic and a deep respect for quality, Ballarat seemed like the perfect place to realise a very particular dream. And so, with partner and marketing guru Martin Shew on board, Hotel Vera was born.

 

Artist’s concept.

 

As Martin explains, Hotel Vera is designed to slip into a gap in the Ballarat accommodation market. ‘There is a lot going on here with accommodation,’ says Martin. ‘But there’s nowhere that truly hits that bespoke luxury market.’ And both agree that true luxury accommodation really needs to come from a place of environmental integrity.

The building they found to realise their vision is one of Sturt Street’s graceful old mansions, complete with carriage entrance and oodles of history. However, its most recent iteration – surgeon’s offices – meant the Hotel Vera team had their work cut out for them. David and Martin had to strip away decades of lacklustre decorating decisions to reveal the true strength and beauty of the building. They were also determined to do it with as little environmental impact as possible.

 

Artist’s concept.

 

As David says, ‘We want to overlay the historic wonder of the place with contemporary luxury. And we wanted to do it with a sustainable lens.’

The process of design and renovation was where Hotel Vera’s green credentials really started to come through. Almost all the material produced by demolition was recycled, from the timber to the electrical wiring. Bricks were cleaned and set aside to be incorporated into the new extension and solar panels were installed. Careful attention was paid to the gardens, which are impressively extensive for an inner-city block. On top of all this, Hotel Vera partnered with Fifteen Trees to plant 250 trees to help offset the impact of the build. ‘We want to back companies with a moral compass,’ Martin says. ‘All business plans these days should have a sustainable focus, no question.’

 

Hotel Vera’s trees were planted at Narmbool, Elaine.

 

The focus on sustainability is there in the detail of Hotel Vera’s ‘think local act local’ ethos too. From rooms named after local regions to a hatted chef with a strong paddock-to-plate philosophy, Hotel Vera is nothing if not detail-oriented.

David and Martin want the Hotel Vera experience to be about taking a place-based journey. ‘People are looking for that authentic experience,’ says Martin. ‘They want to know where their food came from, what the story is behind the building. They want to feel they’ve made a connection.’

 

Some of the species of trees included Stringybark, Peppermint, Snow Gum, Candlebark and Manna Gum.

 

David agrees. He grew up on a farm and understands how connecting with a place can bring with it a sense of belonging: ‘I planted a seed once as a kid, on the farm, I remember it clearly. It was an acorn. I can put my arms around that trunk now.’

It’s clearly a profound memory, and one David and Martin are keen to share with their guests. Everyone who stays at Hotel Vera will have a tree planted to mark the occasion. Fifteen Trees will make sure these are planted in the region, so that guests can visit the location. ‘It’s a story,’ says Martin. ‘People will go out of their way to visit a spot they have a personal connection with. It’s good for the region.’

 

 

We think Hotel Vera itself is going to be good for the region, and not just Ballarat. David and Martin already have plans to extend their concept to Ballarat’s sister goldfields city, Bendigo. At Fifteen Trees, we are all for projects that walk the talk when it comes to sustainability, especially when they leave a swathe of newly planted trees in their wake. David and Martin are the real deal, and we can’t wait to see Hotel Vera opening its doors in Autumn 2022.

 

Writer – Sarah Hart.

Sarah is an artist whose passions include the stories and experiences of women and narrative driven work. Her aim is to delight, to reveal glimpses of everyday beauty and to celebrate flights of the ordinary. Sarah works across a range of media, with an abiding interest in pen and ink, mixed media and the human form. You can find Sarah here.

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