The old bizMotel, new site of Nine's The Block. Photo: Penny Stephens
FANS of The Block, this is a spoiler alert. Look away now if you don't want to know what happens next.
Despite the best efforts of Nine to keep the future of its top-rating reality show a secret, Fairfax Media can reveal the network's plan for the biggest twist in the history of the series. Not even the contestants are in on the reveal yet.
In a bid to reboot the show's ageing formula, next year's crop of amateur renovators won't be tasked with something as easy as fixing up a few derelict houses or flats.
Ratcheting up the difficulty - and, it hopes, the drama - Nine is planning to set them loose with power tools and decorating budgets on an entire six-storey building in South Melbourne.
The task, it appears, will be to transform a drab motel into a high-end apartment tower in little more than two months.
The network refuses to discuss its plans for the 2013 series or confirm The Block will be set at the Park Street building. In fact, it won't even confirm that Melbourne is the setting for the sixth series.
But property records show production company Watercress has spent $6.71 million for the four-star bizMotel, which closed its doors a few months ago.
It is the most ambitious and expensive project for the producers, who spent only about $4 million to buy the four South Melbourne terrace houses used in the most recent series.
Security fencing and scaffolding have already gone up around the building, with construction crews apparently stripping out the walls, fixtures, electrics and plumbing before they are handed over to the contestants. Filming is expected to begin in late January.
Each floor is about 25 per cent larger than the average Australian home, which could see them transformed into luxury penthouse-style apartments. With so much space to work with, it's also possible more couples could be added to the standard four-couple roster seen in previous series. They could even be tasked with creating a luxury boutique hotel rather than individual units.
Secrecy is kept tight in a bid to boost hype and protect The Block's position as a ratings winner and advertising revenue cash cow.
Nine has had its own problems sustaining interest in The Block's format, which was staged in Bondi in 2003 and Manly in 2004 before being cancelled.
After a six-year hiatus and change of hosts, the show returned to Sydney at the height of the 2010 property boom and rated well. It has found enduring success since relocating to property-mad Melbourne, first in Richmond in 2011 and then South Melbourne in 2012.
An average of 4.16 million people nationwide tuned in to the last finale, including 1.02 million viewers in Melbourne.
The properties become tourist attractions during the show's run, with more than 100 people visiting them each day, including some who travel from interstate.
More than 20,000 self-described ''blockaholics'' lined up earlier this year for the chance to be one of the 2000 people allowed to walk through the South Melbourne properties during an open for inspection.
''Australians love anything to do with property, and being able to follow their favourite couple as they do the renovations from start to finish creates a very big, very loyal following,'' said Kay & Burton agent Alex Schiavo, who sold one of the homes last season.