Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale, Leighton executive director Andrew Borger and Cr Andrew Antoniolli check out the model of the master plan for the Ipswich City Heart at the Ipswich Art Gallery on Wednesday.
Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale, Leighton executive director Andrew Borger and Cr Andrew Antoniolli check out the model of the master plan for the Ipswich City Heart at the Ipswich Art Gallery on Wednesday.

$1 billion plan for Ipswich heart

THE bold one-billion-dollar redevelopment of Ipswich's city heart took one step closer to becoming a reality yesterday with the unveiling of its major partner and master plan.

Construction will begin next year on the ambitious project, with a large component of the retail, commercial and residential development due to be completed within five to seven years.

The project will include a shopping centre with retail space comparable to the size of Riverlink, along with commercial and residential towers.

Launched by Ipswich City Properties (ICP), a council-owned business, and development partners Leighton Properties, yesterday's unveiling included artists' impressions and a model.

Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale said it was a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the mall area from a dying retail precinct into a vibrant city hub.

He paid tribute to the businesses that stayed true to the mall during the hard times, but insisted the redeveloped hub will attract major national retailers.

“It makes us a truly regional centre. We are building a world- class city centre that will enhance Ipswich's reputation as a major centre for investment,” Cr Pisasale said.

While the major stages of the projects are expected to be completed by 2016, the full redevelopment is expected to take 15 years in total.

ICP was set up by council specifically to purchase the CBD.

When they officially took over in 2009, occupancy was at 45 per cent. It now sits at 91 per cent, with Cr Pisasale claiming the lack of suitable space is a reason why more retailers aren't moving in.

Cr Paul Tully, who is also chairman of ICP, said development would “embrace” the Bremer River and make it an important focal point.

Cr Tully said the new Ipswich City Square would be a magnet for decentralised government departments and businesses – mirroring the relationship between Parramatta and Sydney.

“The rejuvenation of Ipswich city heart will be one of the most significant in the state for many years,” Cr Tully said.

The plans, including residential apartments for up to 1000 people, an office precinct, entertainment and major retail space would have to go through the same council approvals as any other development.

Cr Tully said retailers would face some disruption, with newer businesses like Harvey Norman aware the changes would occur when moving in. The aim is to find new homes for all existing tenants.

Leighton Properties executive director and state manager Andrew Borger said the developed city centre would attract international and interstate investment.

“There will be over 55,000sqm of office space in three buildings, and there will be a 50,000sqm shopping centre as well,” Mr Borger said.

“Almost half of the project will be delivered within the first five to seven years. That will include two office buildings, the retail component in its first two stages and one or two residential buildings.”

Current CBD businesses are urged to contact ICP if they are concerned about their futures.

The model unveiled yesterday will be on display at council's Customer Service Centre at the top of the mall.

Key points

  • The total cost of the project is estimated at $1b, but could rise
  • Council says the $50m it borrowed to buy the mall will be recouped by 2016. Ratepayers' cash is not being used to fund the venture
  • The new CBD will comprise a 55,000sq m covered shopping complex as well as apartments and office space
  • An open air plaza will be created at the southern end of the mall, lined with shops, bars and restaurants
  • The project must be approved by the council's planning committee, but it is hoped construction will start late next year

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