WELCOME to the new-look heart of the Sunshine Coast.

The age-old debate over which village can lay claim to being the centre of the Sunshine Coast may be finally put to rest, following the unveiling of the council's plans for a lush new city heart.

At a UDIA lunch in Maroochydore yesterday, artist's impressions and video were screened for the first time, revealing ambitious and - some would say overdue - plans for the transformation of the Horton Park golf course into a new city centre.

While the planned Maroochydore principal activity centre is being designed to be home to big business and the Coast's arts, it is anything but a concrete jungle.

The photos and video revealed picturesque parklands built on the banks of scenic waterways and surrounded by cafes, high rise building and a futuristic arts and convention centre.

Unveiling the new Maroochydore Principal Activity Centre, Mayor Mark Jamieson said future Sunshine Coast residents would be left in no doubt about where the heart of the Coast was.

Waterways feature heavily in the new city centre vision.
Waterways feature heavily in the new city centre vision.

"If I can use the Gold Coast example, I think they are really challenged by, 'well, where is the real heart of town?'" Mr Jamieson told a crowd of Coast businesspeople at the Maroochydore RSL.

"The people of the Sunshine Coast in the future won't be confused by that.

"This provides a heart for a lot of those civic and cultural opportunities that has been missing thus far.

"It is all about trying to give the Sunshine Coast a real centre.

"It's open space and waterways which is really what the heart of our region is all about.

"There will be plenty of green space ... with Buderim mountain as the backdrop."

Public transport is a key part of the vision for the future Maroochydore.
Public transport is a key part of the vision for the future Maroochydore.

Council major urban developments manager Ron Piper said the most outstanding feature of the planned city centre was the water ways.

"People will come here and go away and remember the water and all that open space," he said.

Council urban developments manager  Mark Salmon said the new city heart would be a home to larger employers working in industries that were complementary to the Maroochydore CBD.

"We'd be looking at industries that would be complementary to a CBD," he said.

"For example, I see no reason why all state government departments need to be centrally located in Brisbane.

"Having spent many years living in the CBD of Brisbane I know how congested it is, I know how hard it is to get into and out of.

"I think we can do a lot better up here.

"We're now going down the path of preparing the development scheme and I'd say that within the next 12-month period we will be in a position where we will be actively targeting those users."

Horton Park's golf course is set to undergo a transformation.
Horton Park's golf course is set to undergo a transformation.

Panning was well under way for expansion of the Sunshine Coast airport - but private investment was still needed.

"The big challenge is the 450 million dollar price tag on the development of the new east-to-west runway," he said.

"That's clearly not funding that council has readily at its disposal.

"We intend to have a program out calling for expressions of interest by the end of year."

At which point one audience member quipped "Vote for Clive!"

"If we want to really maximise the hospital development, an international hotel, exhibition and convention centre and the potential for all sorts of international conventions here on the Sunshine Coast then we've got to make it easy for people to be able to access.

"As far as the development of the CBD and transportation, council has undertaken a feasibility study around light rail

"The plan ultimately for light rail is for it to run from Caloundra through the Kawana precinct through to the principal activity centre and ultimately on to the airport.

"There is a $2 billion price tag attached to that which is well beyond council's means. That's where I'll be working with the state members who have a responsibility to provide public transport."