Daylesford couple restore Hotel Bellinzona with multi-million dollar reno

The property was styled by Theresa Albioli. Picture: Hotel Bellinzona
The property was styled by Theresa Albioli. Picture: Hotel Bellinzona

Theresa Albioli and Tony De Marco have bought and currently manage 70 properties in Victoria’s Daylesford and Hepburn Springs region. Their latest venture is a 43-bedroom hotel called Bellinzona.

Ms Alioli and Mr De Marco bought their first house together in October 2015 and have since steadily added property to their portfolio, which they lease out as short-term rentals.

They managed to purchase Hotel Bellinzona for a discounted price of approximately $4m due to competition backing out during COVID.

Vendor JLL Hotels and Hospitality Group received a large number of enquiries and multiple bids for the property, however, Ms Albioli said that once lockdowns hit, competition dwindled allowing them to come out as the top bid.

“Prior to COVID there were over 90 interested parties. Then they all disappeared. We ended up being the only offer on the table, so we were able to negotiate the final purchase price,” she said.

“Daylesford/Hepburn Springs is already one of the most sought-after holiday destinations in Australia, but never before has there ever been something so large or beautiful as Hotel Bellinzona. We saw this opportunity hence why we bought it through an incredible risky time in the world.”

Hotel Bellinzona has survived two fires. Picture: Supplied

Located in Hepburn Springs, the historic hotel is set across one hectare and features 43 guest rooms. When Ms Albioli and Mr De Marco first saw the property, they were keen to embark on the challenge of transforming a large scale heritage-listed hotel using their tried and tested knowledge from previous heritage house flipping projects.

The hotel has a lengthy past and was built in 1903 as one of the original guesthouses in the region. Over the years, it fell victim to two fires and while it was repaired by its former owners, it was still in need of design work to entice a modern weekend traveller.

While Ms Albioli and Mr De Marco had renovated heritage protected homes in the past, Hotel Bellinzona was on a much larger scale.

“It’s the most beautiful space that was already here. We didn’t create the space we just enhanced the space,” said Ms Albioli.

The multi-million dollar renovation saw them tear down walls, re-install walls, rip out the carpets and re-furnish and decorate the entire property, add new electrical, new commercial kitchens, landscaping and renovating the pool area.

All of this had to adhere to heritage overlay some of which included protection on the exterior colour of the building along with the driveway area which had a heritage-listed tree in its path which the couple managed to work around. They insisted the heritage overlays weren’t as difficult to adhere to as some may think and said the secret is working with skilled tradespeople.

“With a historical building you’ve got to have your correct trades, not all tradesmen can do historical, they have to have experience with a heritage house. You’ve also got to have the correct funds to do it,” said Mr De Marco.

Event spaces are popular for weddings and corporate hire. Picture: Hotel Bellinzona

While the accommodation is their main source of revenue, they have added more versatile spaces to the hotel to create more business opportunity. The Virgin Cafe opened its doors to both guests and outside visitors, along with facilities for corporate events and weddings.

“We anticipate doubling the previous year of income,” said Ms Albioli referring to the opening of the hotel and these addition venues.

“The property is now a different product – not only does it demand a different tariff, it is in strong demand and achieving almost 100% occupancy since its reopening.”

A cafe has given the couple a new stream of income. Picture: Hotel Bellinzona

Will Walton, Director of Belle Property Daylesford said since lockdown restrictions eased in Victoria, the Daylesford and the Hepburn Springs region has seen a boom in visitors.

“It’s great to see the footpaths full mid week and businesses thriving again,” he said.

He added that there has also been interest in commercial properties, like Hotel Bellinzona, as investors see an opportunity to make the most of the regional boom.

“Belle Property manage a large number of commercial properties in the region and midway through COVID, Belle Property Director Peter Douglas successfully leased a new large development in central Daylesford of retail stores and a premium wine store. All theses tenants took the leap of faith to open seeing that overseas travel restrictions we’re going to offer an opportunity for regional locations to shine,” explained Mr Walton.

Hotel Bellinzona opened to guests in December 2020 and overnight prices range from $230-$489.