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Banking on a river of gold


GROUND will soon be broken on a project that will deliver more than $5 billion in investment along Adelaide’s city riverbank.

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Hoardings are expected to go up early this year to allow work to begin on the new $600 million Festival Square including a 1600-space underground car park and 24-storey office tower.

According to Patrick Robinson of Invest Adelaide, the Walker Corporation development is set to harness the potential of Adelaide’s riverbank, transforming it into a world-class Entertainment Precinct.

Alongside the square, which replaces the dilapidated Hajek Plaza and will also include, restaurants, bars and shops, the Festival Centre is preparing for a $90 million facelift – its biggest reinvestment since it opened in 1973.

The nearby Adelaide Casino this month had plans approved by the South Australian Government for its $300 million expansion, which includes an 80-room luxury boutique hotel and signature restaurants overlooking the River Torrens.

The Adelaide Convention Centre, on the other side of the Adelaide Railway Station from the casino, was the first purpose-built centre of its kind in Australia when it opened in 1987.

It is undergoing a massive $400 million expansion and renewal. The first stage opened last March, while the second stage, which includes a multi-purpose state-of-the-art facility with plenary capacity of up to 3500 seats, will be completed by mid-2017.

Adelaide’s city riverbank stretches for 5km along the River Torrens and includes three precincts – the Cultural and Educational Precinct along its South Eastern bank, the Central Entertainment Precinct and the Health and Wellbeing Precinct at its Western end.

The Health precinct already houses the award-winning $200 million South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute, which opened in 2014, and will be home to the new $2.7 billion Royal Adelaide Hospital when it opens in late 2016.

The Cultural and Educational precinct includes the South Australian Museum, Art Gallery, State Library, University of Adelaide, Botanic Gardens and Adelaide Zoo. It also houses the 7ha soon-to-be-vacated Royal Adelaide Hospital site, which has been touted by the Property Council as “Australia’s single most exciting development opportunity currently on offer”.

Riverbank Authority chairman Andrew McEvoy said the $535 million upgrade of the Adelaide Oval, completed in 2014, and the $40 million footbridge linking it to the rest of the Entertainment Precinct on the city side of the river had given a great deal of momentum for the broader project.

He said recently refurbished riverbank precincts internationally and around Australia such as is in Melbourne, Brisbane and Hobart were proof Adelaide was on the right track.

“London is using the Thames a lot more, Baltimore has redeveloped its whole waterfront precinct, Hobart is also a great example … Adelaide doesn’t have as much water to deal with, but it is of fantastic scale and the beautiful Torrens is still very much natural and reasonably underdeveloped,” McEvoy said.

“Adelaide is a world class medical city and university city, and in the middle of all that, will be an entertainment precinct with workers and life and vibrancy.

“It’s Adelaide’s best chance to have a public square loved by locals, it will be a space where big numbers can gather, but also where people can have more intimate experiences. We would love it to become the place where Adelaide locals love to go, and if locals go there they tend to attract visitors.

“There will be a construction phase on all of this and total construction across the riverbank might be five or six years but we’re hoping to see real progress on the riverbank and Festival Square by the start of 2018.”

Adelaide Festival Centre CEO Douglas Gautier said the centre’s main entrances would be moved to face the river and a star boulevard built to better link it with the footbridge. A series of bars and restaurants are also planned along the riverbank.

Gautier said the Festival Centre upgrades will begin in 2016 and they would help the centre improve on the 900,000 visitors it hosted a year.

“It’s only once in every 40 years that you get something like this and now I think we are at that point where there is an opportunity for us as a community to grab it,” he said.

“We do events and arts and entertainment very well so aggregating it in that way in a fantastic location will stand us in very good stead not only in terms of local benefits but also in terms of visitor benefits for decades to come.”

Gautier said having the Adelaide Oval, Convention Centre, Elder Park, Festival Centre, casino and hotels all together, with the museum, art gallery and state library just 200-metres up the street will set Adelaide apart from riverbank precincts in Melbourne, Brisbane and Hobart.

“They are all different but this one I think you will see flying a flag nationwide, it’s just got such great potential,” he said.

“The great quality about Adelaide and the reason why it is the pre-eminent festival city in our nation is that close proximity, and I can’t think of any other Australian capital which has all of those things – that kind of critical mass in a very close area in a beautiful setting is quite unique.”

SKYCITY Group Chief Executive Nigel Morrison said the company was well advanced in finalising the design of its proposed Adelaide Casino expansion.

“Our Adelaide Casino development will help South Australia attract a greater share of high-value international visitors, particularly from China and South-East Asia,” Morrison said.

“SKYCITY’s investment will create much-needed jobs and economic growth for South Australia and complement the redeveloped Adelaide Oval and the new and expanded Adelaide Convention Centre.”

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