CBD redevelopment slows as questions grow over its future
TENDERS have stalled in another delay to the largest redevelopment project of the Ipswich CBD in 30 years.
The long-awaited redevelopment of the region's central business district continues to roll on as uncertainty about its progress under an administrator swirls.
A spokesman for Ipswich City Council said the project was going ahead but tenders were in and were being analysed.
"An independent review is being conducted on recently closed tenders for the restoration of Murphy's Pub and the re-opening of the mall to traffic.
"As soon as this review is completed, successful tenders will be announced and work will continue."
Murphy's Pub was purchased by Ipswich City Properties in 2014 with plans to restore the pub to its former glory.
Tenders for several key aspects of the project have paused while a review is undertaken.
Those for the council's administration building, civic areas including the library and entertainment precincts and the road works have been prepared by ICP and are ready to go to market.
Tenders have been called and are now closed for works specific to a major transformation of Union Place and Nicholas St.
The council hopes work will progress "once contracts can be awarded".
All tenders have been forced to complete a multi-layered due diligence process.
"This includes a rigorous and robust review and assessment of all tenders by two groups, including the independent examination of the tenders and the tender process to ensure the highest level of compliance," he said.
"Negotiations are progressing with a number of interested cinema operators, keen to invest and support a major upgrade of the Ipswich Central entertainment precinct."
Last week, Stirling Hinchliffe tabled an audit report which showed Ipswich City Properties, a company 100 per cent owned by the council, spent almost $50million of ratepayers' money on a CBD redevelopment that never eventuated.
It prompted ICP chairman Paul Tully to hit back, declaring the first building was sold in 2012 for $93million.
ICP started about 10 years ago with a $45million loan from the council via Queensland Treasury Corporation.
The company purchased properties in the CBD with a long-term development plan. It is understood the value of the city square dropped $20million since it was purchased by the council for $45million in 2009.
A spokesman for the council also defended the financial operations of the council-owned company.
"Ipswich City Council and Ipswich City Properties Pty Ltd are fully audited by the Queensland Government Auditor General on an annual basis," he said. "Annual reports show this project is soundly accounted for."
CBD project needs to go on: Martin
A COUNCILLOR responsible for the redevelopment of Ipswich's CBD has assured the community the project will eventually deliver positive outcomes.
Division 7 councillor David Martin, whose area covers the mall, argued the short-term pain was necessary for the city to prosper in the long term.
"It obviously needs a makeover at the moment," he said.
"It needs some tenants and it needs some vibrancy."
Cr Martin admits it has taken him a while to get his head around the project, but believes it will eventually deliver for Ipswich. "I can't see it not working," he said.
"That civic space will be fantastic.
"Having that there will attract people. It will be a place people want to be and the mall needs to be a space people will want to go to."
Competition with the city's major retail area, Riverlink Shopping Centre, has been questioned by some business owners.
Cr Martin said both spaces would complement each other, similar to Southbank in Brisbane.
"Hopefully at night it comes alive," he said.
How the CBD will progress under an administrator remains uncertain, and Cr Martin believes it is in the region's best interests to go ahead.
Cr Martin said since being elected in October he had questioned some decisions about the CBD, including a previous agreement for the council to rent, rather than own its new council chambers.
A change to that agreement with EPC Pacific resulted in Ipswich City Council paying about $7million to own its own administration centre.
In 2009, the council purchased the city square for $45 million, but its value has dropped to $25million in the past 9 years.
Cr Martin hoped the asset valuation would increase when the CBD is fully redeveloped and land values increase.
It is hoped the increased valuation will service another loan from Queensland Treasury.
The council has a memorandum of understanding with Queensland Health to negotiate a sale of the council's Hayden Centre, humanity building, library and council chambers.