31 October 2019

No rate increase as plan to transform Queanbeyan takes shape

| Michael Weaver
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Queanbeyan Civic and Cultural Precinct

An impression of the Queanbeyan Civic and Cultural Precinct that the Council hopes will transform the CBD. Photos: Supplied.

Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council is adamant that rates will not increase and parking will remain free as part of its $74 million plan to transform the heart of Queanbeyan.

Council is set to have a significant infusion of public comment following the release this week of concept designs and the business case for its Civic and Cultural Precinct project.

The transformation of the town’s central business district is the Council’s most significant project and hopes to realise its dreams of becoming a cultural and economic hub after years of poor economic and retail activity.

Queanbeyan-Palerang Mayor Tim Overall said the Queanbeyan CBD has lacked investment and action for quite some time, but that there was no need to increase rates to fund the project.

“It’s important for our ratepayers to understand that Council has the capacity to borrow funds for this project, and for the other projects we have planned including the new Queanbeyan Sewage Treatment Plant.

“The development of the Queanbeyan Civic and Cultural Precinct is an important step in rejuvenating the Queanbeyan CBD.”

Mayor Overall said Council is not making the most of the land it owns.

“Council is the major landholder in the CBD, and currently that land is not being used to its full potential. The CBD Transformation Strategy focuses on attracting more workers and residents into our CBD to stimulate activity. This development is the catalyst for that to start happening and has the potential to attract an additional 160 workers into the CBD,” Mayor Overall said.

Council has identified a number of areas as part of the project, including:

  • The refurbishment of part of Crawford Street to develop a lifestyle precinct
  • The development of the award-winning Queen Elizabeth II Park
  • Implementation of CBD smart city structures, such as multi-storey car parks with electric vehicle charging points, smart lighting, CCTV and Wi-Fi
  • The creation of a river walk that includes the new shared path bridge
  • Refurbishment of the riverside tourist park which is currently underway.
Queanbeyan Civic and Cultural Precinct

The Queanbeyan Civic and Cultural Precinct from Crawford Street.

The focal point of the project will be located on the site of the former Council administration building at 257 Crawford St. Council says this will make room for a number of Council-owned properties for potential redevelopment.

Car parking will be provided via a basement car park for more than 100 spaces, 65 of which will be accessible to the public.

“Parking is obviously a very important part of this plan, so it’s pleasing to see that the overall number of publicly accessible car parks will increase in the area. And importantly, car parking will remain free of charge,” said Mayor Overall.

More than 40 per cent of the precinct is focused on the community and cultural purposes, with community spaces, linkages to The Q, public domain and breakout spaces attached to the Bicentennial Hall to increase Queanbeyan’s potential to attract conferences.

Following months of planning and consideration, Council has released options for the Precinct to the public for comment. The options propose different inclusions and the Council has already expressed an early preference for option five.

The development is expected to cost around $74 million, funded via a combination of debt, asset sales, development contributions and grants.

A long-term, low-interest loan will be repaid via merger savings, internal contributions and savings from not using 11 separate buildings in the CBD. A large portion of the loan will be repaid via the sale of surplus Council properties in the CBD ($19.7 million) for which Council already has signed an agreement covering the majority of properties.

“Before we can gain access to the loan, we need to go through a stringent process with the NSW Office of Local Government and NSW Treasury Corporation,” Mayor Overall said.

In 2017, Council sought community feedback on a proposed Head Office and Smart Hub adjacent to The Q within the Lowe St car park; however, following community input, Council elected not to proceed with construction on that site.

This is the first chance for residents of Queanbeyan to view the designs and make comment on the concept, uses, feasibility and financials.

A report will be provided at Council’s December meeting and, if required, changes will be made to the development application. Residents will again be able to make comment as the project progresses.

The concept designs and business case are available at yourvoice.qprc.nsw.gov.au. Comments can be received until 29 November. During the period, the Council will hold a community meeting on 26 November at the Council Chambers. Other consultation activities will be held during November and will be advertised.

Original Article published by Michael Weaver on The RiotACT.

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