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Owner reveals future plans for tourism icon after putting legal battle 'behind him'

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With legal woes “behind him”, the owner of one of the region’s biggest tourism drawcards has revealed redevelopment plans are back in full swing and its future success is ripe for the picking.

After the recent settlement over the site between co-owners CMC Property and Rankin Investments, the future is looking bright for the Big Pineapple, with sole owner Peter Kendall confirming his revamp plans are already underway.

Related story: Big attraction’s court win over disputed $5.5m debt

With the legal battle now “in the background”, Mr Kendall said he was glad it was over and he was focusing on moving forward.

“It was distraction but the worst thing is, it held up progress on the site for three years,” he said.

Featuring a 16m fibreglass pineapple structure, historically the Big Pineapple drew more than a million visits a year and Mr Kendall said he hoped for a full return of the icon.

The first thing on his list was to re-engage Sunshine Coast Council and future business prospects to open up the pavilion, as well as engaging architects and designers to transform the Coast’s famous “big thing” into a contemporary version of its glory days.

He said he would be staying within the original masterplan perimeters and it wouldn’t be changing “much”.

A masterplan concept design by Place Design Group.

Approved by council in 2019, the masterplan includes agritourism development opportunities across the 170ha landholding, such as food-based tourism operations, a food production facility, interpretative centre, waterslides, accommodation and food market.

He described the masterplan as “massive” and designed to be fulfilled over 10 to 20 years.

“Broadly, my view and vision has not changed and everything that is in the masterplan is very much alive and valid,” he said.

“Within that masterplan, the uses are for things like an RV park and incubated buildings for agritourism, so more of the same as the tenants we have in, and to build the businesses up in there.

“There are two hotels in the plan, glamping tents and all sorts. There’s no shortage of stuff we can or will do, but obviously it can’t happen all at once.”

After the masterplan was approved, he said the attraction site was on the cusp of being renovated, to then facilitate a craft brewery and restaurant in the main building.

While still in the planning stages of the redevelopment specifics, he confirmed the main priorities were to renovate the main building and to fix up the car parks and front fences.

They would also attempt to get the train running again as well as restoring the Big Pineapple itself.

“The Pineapple was closed some time ago and needs to be a spruced up inside to get it back open … because I know people enjoy getting up to the top and looking over the fields,” Mr Kendall said.

“There is a full development team working on it and there is no shortage of things to do.

“In the time plans were halted, COVID has come and gone and the economic landscape out there is a lot different than it was three years ago. It’s not in a bad way for the Sunshine Coast either, things are going well.”

The Big Pineapple (Sunshine Plantation) as it looked in its heyday.

For each new project, he said proposals would be put to the council, which would then go through the approval motions.

“As long as it fits within the masterplan it should be fine,” he said.

“Very much watch this space.”

Related story: Our national treasure’s emerging foodie and spirits enclave

He revealed the future of the popular Big Pineapple Festival was undecided, at least for this year.

“It definitely won’t be happening this May, but theoretically it could be possible to do it later in the year … we are still working on it,” he said.

He said the long-term plan focused on more national treasures emerging from the already existing food and beverage enclaves operating around the Big Pineapple.

“Our existing tenants – COYO, Sunshine & Sons, Diablo, the Wildlife HQ and Treetops – are all well-known brands and businesses, and successful in their own right,” he said.

“It’s very exciting.”

CAVU Distillery and Sunshine & Sons founders Michael Conrad and Matt Hobson. Picture: Patrick Woods

Sunshine & Sons distillery founder Matt Hobson said the team was thrilled to hear the Big Pineapple’s redevelopment plans were moving closer to fruition.

“We have a business that’s located at the Big Pineapple for a couple of reasons – it’s an iconic drawcard and even now in its current state, it’s an iconic drawcard for the Coast,” he said.

“We’ve invested heavily as a tenant and with that bright future in mind, our offering is a small part of something much bigger and we look forward to being amongst other great businesses on that site in the future.”

He said the popular Sunshine & Sons Pineapple Parfait Gin was inspired by the Big Pineapple and the parfait desserts there that many people would remember.

Former co-owner Brad Rankin, of Rankin Investments, declined to comment when approached by Sunshine Coast News.

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