A chocolate-themed hotel could rise from the ashes after Dunedin's Cadbury factory closes next year.
A group of interested parties, led by Otago Chamber of Commerce chief executive Dougal McGowan and Dunedin businessman Russell Lund, has already suggested the idea to Mondelez International.
And while Mondelez was yet to commit to any plan for the site's future use, Mr Lund yesterday said he had a national hotel operator lined up to run it.
He would not name the operator, but said they were "very, very keen to get into Dunedin".
"They think the Cadbury site would work extremely well."
Mondelez International spokesman Jake Hatton said the company had fielded "a number of inquiries from interested parties" but was yet to commit to anything.
"We are working to establish a formal process and will get back in touch with interested parties in due course."
The hotel idea was the work of Mr McGowan, who raised it with Mondelez and then contacted Mr Lund.
Mr Lund said a hotel redevelopment, if it proceeded, would seek to reuse as much of the Cadbury factory's existing buildings and features as possible, including its distinctive silos.
It could even be backed by Chinese investment, if a delegation travelling to Dunedin from Qingyuan liked what they saw.
Mr McGowan said the group of up to 13 businessmen, investors and members of the Qingyuan Chamber of Commerce were expected in Dunedin in late June.
They were on the lookout for investment opportunities in Dunedin and Central Otago, and the Cadbury site would be on the list to show to the group.
"It [Cadbury] will be one of the options we put on the table," he said.
The Otago and Qingyuan chambers had signed a friendship agreement last year, and it had since emerged they had access to vast investment sums. That included an agreement with Qingyuan's municipal authority, which would provide up to ¥3billion ($633million) for every ¥1 billion ($211million) of overseas investment the chamber arranged.
The disclosure, at an earlier meeting between the two chambers, had "pricked everyone's eyes and ears up, as you can imagine", Mr McGowan said.
He was in China this week as part of a Dunedin delegation, led by Mayor Dave Cull, but Otago chamber staff were already working on a list of potential investment opportunities, including the Cadbury site, to show to the Chinese delegation.
Mr Lund said the Cadbury site and the potential hotel development represented a "once-in-a-generation opportunity" for the city.
It would work best as a 4-star or 4.5-star hotel that catered to families, he believed.
"You could see a lot of families, potentially, staying there because of the Cadbury thing."
Success would also depend on leaving as much of the Cadbury factory's features in place as possible, to "tell the story", he said.
Such a development would allow the Cadbury brand to continue at the site, even after the factory closed.
"You drive into the hotel and the existing courtyard and you see the big purple silos, and Cadbury World's going to be right beside it.
"I understand they [Mondelez] are keen to have a branded facility ... a legacy involvement in Dunedin, and that makes sense with Cadbury World."
Examples of similar developments overseas could be found in Hobart, which turned a former jam factory into a five-star hotel, and Ghirardelli Square, in San Francisco, where an old chocolate factory was converted into another five-star hotel, he said.