Construction of the $15 million Gungahlin cinema was due to begin last month but has been hit by another delay – COVID-19.
Gungahlin Community Council president Peter Elford received word of the delay this week from the developer, the Krnc Group.
Initial works have begun on an office site occupied by DHA, but the construction of the main site has been put on hold until the economy and the status of the COVID-19 pandemic improves.
“We have been working closely with the cinema operator during this period and due to the ongoing COVID-19 implications, it has been jointly decided to put the construction on hold until some certainty and total relaxation of social distancing measures are in place,” Mr Elford said.
While construction was due to begin in July on the site on the corner Hinder and Efkarpidis Streets in the Town Centre next to Gungahlin Village and the light rail terminus, the project has already experienced significant delays since the site was first selected by the ACT Government in 2012. A legal battle in 2019 between the developer and movie distributors Hoyts and United Cinemas – which United ultimately won – also further delayed the project.
“The view of the Gungahlin Community Council is that the project has taken an inordinate period of time. Here we are eight years later and ground still hasn’t been broken,” Mr Elford told Region Media.
“We could go through the timeline of the project, ask why it took a year to get an EOI [expression of interest] out and a year-and-a-half to sign a contract for the lease, and why did the developer then get into a legal ruckus with multiple distributors?”
However, Mr Elford said it was perfectly understandable the COVID-19 pandemic had added a further plot twist.
“The cinema industry has lost approximately 90 per cent of its revenue since COVID-19 started. It’s obviously made it harder for any business to invest when they are already going to be taking a revenue hit and their business model has been severely damaged,” he said.
The owner of the site, Gungahlin Lifestyle, has commissioned Construction Control to build the two-storey, eight-screen complex which will have more than 1,600 seats. The mixed-use development will also include three ground-floor retail spaces, a ground floor cinema foyer and cinemas upstairs.
“We’ve certainly been frustrated with, not only the delays, but sometimes getting information about exactly what’s happening.
“The cinema site remains a car park, so it’s terribly frustrating, but it’s a situation where a whole sequence of delays has just dragged the project out,” Mr Elford said.
There is a huge demand for a cinema in Gungahlin, along with many community services on the Gungahlin Community Council’s wishlist.
“The big challenge for Gungahlin is not just the cinema but for a whole range of infrastructure services that we just don’t have yet, such as more aged care facilities, community spaces and sporting facilities.
“On top of the list is where’s our major hub or employment that all fall into the scope of how we finish what we started for Gungahlin?” Mr Elford said.