Brendan Smyth is a man who likes to think of himself as a person with vision. And now he has one on paper.
The Opposition Leader today unveiled his plans for the area around the convention centre, which he calls “Convention Central”. This vision of Mr Smyth’s was very widely covered in today’s Canberra Times, with not only the front page story making it onto their website, but also the two inside ones.
Vital to the outlined redevelopment is the construction of a new convention centre, a plan which the Liberals have held close to their hearts for quite some time. This is to be built on the current Civic pool site, with the existing centre’s site to be turned into an apartment and office building (PDFs of the plans promised for this evening — stay tuned).
UPDATE ABC reports that Ted Quinlan’s called Mr Smyth’s plan “airy fairy” and said he is doubtful about the convention centre’s attractiveness as an investment.
FURTHER UPDATE I finally remembered about getting those plans up, so here they are. Thanks to James Lennane, Brendan’s chief of staff, for supplying them.
AND MORE Wild Bill is, of course, supporting the plans and has a release out about the problems with the current Civic pool.
Mr Smyth called the plan “a new and innovative solution to the problem of replacing the National Convention Centre to allow Canberra to be more competitive in the conventions industry”. He said it solved the problems of the need to replace the convention centre and Civic pool complex and the need for more hotel accomodation in the city centre.
The $600 million plan incorporates two four- and five-star hotels, a new fitness and aquatic centre on the former food court site at the southern end of Glebe Park and the extension of Glebe Park and City Walk to meet Constitution Avenue. The new convention centre would have north-facing entrance and a rooftop reception area with views of the lake and parliamentary precinct.
The project could be funded through the Buy, Own, Operate, Transfer (BOOT) scheme, under which the ACT Government gives land to private firms to build, own and operate the specified construction. Ownership of the land and infrastructure is eventually transferred back to the government. This scheme is generally used for projects such as freeways and prisons. Mr Smyth suggested that with this type of scheme, the new precinct could be mostly complete in about three years’ time.
The Canberra Times reported that the government owns all of the land earmarked for development in the plan except the block on which the old food court (of which I have vague memories) stood. This land is now used as a private car park, owned by Amalgamated Property Group. Apparently a development application to build a residential apartment complex on that particular bit of land was approved by ACTPLA last month, which has potential to cause headaches if the Convention Central plan is taken up. Another potential problem is that the Civic pool complex is listed on the ACT Heritage Register.
The future of Mr Smyth’s plan is up to the Convention Centre Upgrade Project Reference Panel, headed by Master Builders Association executive director David Dawes, which is expected to give a final report on the planned refurbishment to the government later this week.