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Contentious Queen’s Wharf Brisbane casino resort submitted for assessment

Destination Brisbane Consortium has submitted a plan of development for the Queen’s Wharf Brisbane casino resort project.

The masterplan, led by US-based architecture and urban planning practice Jerde Partnership, will guide the design of a 27.5-hectare stretch of state-owned land on the Brisbane riverfront opposite the South Bank precinct. Previous plans covered only nine hectares. The site is currently home to a number of historic government buildings and marks the place where Brisbane’s colonial history began. It has been described as the city’s “oldest and most symbolic precinct” by the Australian Institute of Architect’s national president Richard Kirk (formerly Queensland chapter president).

The project would be the largest private sector development in Queensland, covering an area equivalent to almost 20 percent of the city centre, spread over 12 hectares over land and 15.3 hectares over water with a gross floor area of 386,660 square metres.

The proposed Queens Wharf Brisbane casino resort masterplanned by Jerde Partnership will sit on over nine hectares of riverfront land.

The proposed Queens Wharf Brisbane casino resort masterplanned by Jerde Partnership will sit on over nine hectares of riverfront land.

Image: Destination Brisbane Consortium

The masterplan divides the site into four precincts for the development of the “integrated resort,” which includes a casino, five hotels, 50 bars and restaurants and retail spaces, up to 2,000 apartments and the adaptive reuse of heritage-listed government buildings including the former Treasury Building (currently a casino), former Land Administration building (currently a hotel), and the former state library (currently offices).

Also included are a number of “priority development areas-related developments” such as a pedestrian bridge, the Queen Street interface and upgrades to the Turbot Street sewer. The proposal also features the “equivalent of 12 football fields of free public space.”

The development will occupy 36 existing lots and eight road reserves adjacent to the Queensland government’s new offices at 1 William Street and the Queensland parliament.

The area includes 13 existing buildings ranging from two to 18 storeys. Among them, eight are heritage-listed and will be retained and four are slated for demolition, including the Neville Bonner Building designed by Davenport Campbell and Partners in association with Donovan Hill and Powell Dods and Thorpe, which received the FDG Stanley Award for Public Architecture at the 1999 Queensland Architecture Awards. The other buildings to be demolished are the Executive building (100 George Street) and the Executive Annexe buildings at 80A and 80B George Street. The development will also include a number of new buildings up to 67 storeys in height.

The landing from the river of proposed Queens Wharf Brisbane casino resort masterplanned by Jerde Partnership.

The landing from the river of proposed Queens Wharf Brisbane casino resort masterplanned by Jerde Partnership.

Image: Destination Brisbane Consortium

The Queensland government announced Destination Brisbane Consortium as the preferred proponent for the multi-billion-dollar project in July 2015. In November 2015, the state government and the developed reached contractual close, the final stage of the procurement process.

The development has been widely condemned by built environment organizations. In August 2015, Richard Kirk said, “The government precinct is an unsuitable choice for a development of such an overwhelmingly large size and scale.”

“In its proposed form, the casino development would sterilize the site from any further government or public agency functions, and yet the proposed development has a weak relationship both with the parliamentary buildings and the new government offices at number 1 Williams Street.”

“How and why this project ended up in one of Brisbane and Queensland’s most important and historical sites is a lingering question.”

In September 2015, the Queensland chapter of the Australian Institute of Architects, the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects and the Urban Design Alliance jointly wrote to the government criticizing the proposal.

“Development of this scale will overwhelm the historic fabric and erase parts of it, such as the streets that are fundamental to its story,” wrote Richard Kirk and Catherin Bull, adjunct professor of landscape architecture at Queensland University of Technology.

Aerial night view of the proposed Queens Wharf Brisbane casino resort masterplanned by Jerde Partnership.

Aerial night view of the proposed Queens Wharf Brisbane casino resort masterplanned by Jerde Partnership.

Image: Destination Brisbane Consortium

“Just how close should government be to gambling or big business?” Kirk and Bull asked. “What does that tell the citizens of Queensland and its visitors? That their place at the seat of government matters less than their place at gambling tables or shopping centres? In the business of city-making, locations matter and should make sense.”

The project’s design partners include Jerde Partnership (lead design in masterplan, urban design and place-making), Cottee Parker (integrated resort development architects), ML Design (heritage architects), Grimshaw (bridge architects), Urbis (landscape architects, heritage specialists, town planners and urban designers) and Cusp (landscape architects).

Demolition of the non-heritage-listed buildings will take place throughout 2017. The integrated resort development is expected to be completed by 2022. According to The Australian, “the proponents will have to build the casino and associated facilities by 2022 or face government penalties — the most extreme being a return of the land to state ownership.”

The development application can be viewed here.

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