DEVELOPER Mort Douglas yesterday opened a $5 million retail and office building at St Helens but promised an even larger tavern and accommodation centre to make the tourist town the ``Noosa of the south''.
The Launceston-based entrepreneur and builder of Morty's in Brisbane Street said the East Coast project had been difficult but the response had been overwhelming.
He said St Helens needed more population and jobs and he planned an even larger development next door.
Mr Douglas said he would spend a year bedding down this project before getting into the bigger one, which he expects to open within three years.
Mr Douglas estimated that the next development would cost $10 million and fill the remainder of the block, which is now a car park.
He plans to build an upmarket tavern near the Cecilia-Quail intersection with a two-storey, 100-room accommodation centre wrapping around the tavern and retail-office building.
``There is a desperate need for accommodation here,'' he said.
``We need more permanent population . . . and people are looking for nice seaside places to live.
``They see something like this and it could be the final thing to make them stay here.
``It's a nice, new facility.
``St Helens is missing a range of shopping experiences.''
Morty's on the Bay, which opened a month behind schedule, is in Cecelia Street, on the site of the pub that burnt down.
It has five leased ground-floor tenancies, including a restaurant called Mohr and Smith, and four first-floor offices and a conference room, which Mr Douglas expects will be leased when opened next month.
The building is in the middle of the large vacant block that extends to Quail Street.
Mr Douglas estimated that Morty's on the Bay would create 50 jobs and the next development would create even more.