‘Legacy of dust’: Coast’s gold medal ghost town

IT WAS the beating heart of the Gold Coast's Commonwealth Games, but the former athletes' village is now being labelled a gold medal ghost town.

This week marks the two-year anniversary of the finish of the Games, and while the event delivered many shiny new infrastructure projects to the Gold Coast, the site of the athletes' village remains a serious sore point.

Formerly the home of the Gold Coast Show, Big Day Out music festival and the city's harness racing and greyhound tracks, the Parklands Showgrounds were a controversial choice for the Games village, and many have criticised the precinct where deserted streets were a feature long before the COVID-19 crisis.

"It's a ghost town," said one resident who has moved in to the residential part of the site known as Smith Collective.

"You could fire a cannon down the street and not hit anyone."

Local Member for Bonney Sam O'Connor said the space was a massive white elephant.

"It's leaving a legacy of dust," he said.

The 29ha land parcel in the heart of the Gold Coast was earmarked as a future "game-changing" health and knowledge precinct, with links to industries tied to the nearby hospitals and Griffith University.

 

The Gold Coast Commonwealth Games athletes’ village sits largely dormant today.
The Gold Coast Commonwealth Games athletes’ village sits largely dormant today.

 

Smith Collective was trumpeted as a development to "revolutionise renting", but many of the site's residential towers remain virtually empty more than a year after launching.

A large section of the Games village site fronting the Smith Street Motorway resembles an empty car park, with thousands of square metres of prime real estate covered in bitumen and sitting vacant.

While several businesses have moved in to the precinct and other projects are in the pipeline, it is a cautionary lesson to Queensland civic leaders pushing a bid for a shot at the 2032 Olympics.

The Gold Coast Harness Racing Club remains without a home over six years after being forced to vacate the site, and club secretary Wayne Dossetto said the current status of the precinct did not make that fact any easier to stomach.

"They said it was going to be this world-leading health precinct, but to see what it's like today, it just makes the pill that much more bitter," he said.

"We still don't have a home and (the Parklands site) doesn't seem to be kicking many goals either."

Member for Surfers Paradise John-Paul Langbroek, who served as the Opposition's Commonwealth Games spokesman, said the site was not achieving its potential.

"Of all the things that were left to the city following the Games, most of them have become wonderful assets to the city, except for the athletes' village," he said.

"In London (for the 2012 Olympics) the village reinvigorated a dead part of the city, (but on the Gold Coast) it really hasn't delivered that kind of legacy."

 

The Gold Coast Commonwealth Games athletes’ village in more bustling times.
The Gold Coast Commonwealth Games athletes’ village in more bustling times.

 

State Development Minister Cameron Dick defended the progress of the precinct, and stressed it was a long game.

A shared-office-space facility called COHORT has achieved 90 per cent occupancy, while construction of an $80 million children's health and education centre is expected to start next year.

"It has been pleasing to see good progress over the past 12 months at the Gold Coast Health and Knowledge Precinct," Mr Dick said.

"This is a long-term visionary project, with a determined focus on growing life sciences, health and technology-related businesses on the Gold Coast."

Many of the townhouses on the site are now occupied, but it is a different story for the apartment towers, which mostly sit empty.

A resident said the precinct was a stark contrast to its previous life as the Games village.

"If you want peace and quiet, it's the gold medal," he said.

"I'm not sure it's what they had in mind though."

In a statement, a spokesman for Smith Collective said the precinct's growth had been affected by the coronavirus, but over half the buildings were already occupied.

"We are confident that post COVID-19 there will remain a strong demand for residents looking for reasonably priced quality apartments with great leisure facilities in a good location and we expect the community will grow accordingly," he said.

Originally published as 'Legacy of dust': Coast's gold medal ghost town