Echo or Crown? It doesn’t matter which wins – Brisbane’s heart will still be completely transformed.
The Queensland government on Monday released the final “integrated resort development” designs from the two consortiums fighting it out for the city’s casino licence at Queen’s Wharf in the city centre.
Greenland Group and Crown Resorts have offered up a six-star hotel, two five-star hotels, restaurants – including one headed by renowned chef Neil Perry – public space and a bridge (complete with suspended waterfall) to South Bank, where they will build a new cinema and theatre complex, public space, a water park and of course the all important casino.
The Destination Brisbane consortium, made up of incumbent Brisbane casino owners, Echo Entertainment along with Hong Kong groups Chow Tai Fook Enterprises and the Far East consortium, have gone with a distinctive arc shaped hub.
Their plans includes a publicly accessible sky deck with restaurants and bars, five hotels – three of them six-star, with the Ritz-Carlton and Rosewood already signing on – a “river arena”, a riverfront moonlight cinema, “12 football fields of public event space” and an underground shopping mall.
The existing Treasury Casino would be turned into a boutique department store.
South Bank will also benefit. As set out by the government, a bridge will connect Queen’s Wharf to the other side of the river, with Destination Brisbane promising a new Lyric Centre.
At the moment, the only information either consortium is allowed to release are the images they have created to showcase their design.
At this stage in the process they are barred from disclosing how big their casinos will be, where they will have pelaa täällä nyt games, the number of machines that will be in them, the number of residential apartments versus hotel rooms – anything outside of how the developments will look.
But competition is fierce. Described as a “once in a generation” opportunity, the winning group will not only have the chance to build a landmark resort complex in what, outside of the heritage listed buildings and Riverside Express Way, will be cleared space.
The casino licence is the carrot the government has offered in order to have the resort and hotels built.
“The point was very strongly made to us by international tourist operators that this sort of integrated resort development is the emerging product in the tourism market,” Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney said.
“Tourism is one of four pillars of the Queensland economy.
“We have a great many natural wonders which are great tourism attractions for Queensland, but if we are going to be competitive, if we are going to remain competitive in that international tourism market, then we have to offer a product that fills this segment of the market as well.
But with funding for both relying on Asian partners, the probity process is expected to take some time.
“Our probity processes will take as long as they need to take and they will be as thorough as we can make them, irrespective of which individual or which company is involved,” Mr Seeney said.
Echo and Crown only just emerged from a bruising battle in Sydney for its casino licence, which the Packer-led Crown group won.
The fight for Brisbane is expected to be just as brutal. The United Voice Union recently came out in support for the Crown bid.
Echo has also admitted that its two existing Queensland properties, The Treasury in Brisbane and Jupiter’s on the Gold Coast, had not received as much care and attention as they ought.
Jupiter’s is now undergoing a multi-million revamp, which is expected to be completed by 2017. But Echo believes that holding the existing Brisbane licence could be an advantage – it will mean the city will still have just the one casino.
Mr Seeney said he expected both sides to use whatever cards they held in an attempt to gain an advantage.
What Queensland thinks of the designs will only play a small role at this stage of the process. While Mr Seeney said it was important to share the designs, the public was not being formally consulted yet.
“This project is a little different to most procurement processes in that there is an extremely high level of public interest,” he said.
“This is the centre of the CBD, this is something that the people of Brisbane have an intense interest in and I think it is something that is right and proper that we share these design concepts in with them and allow them to participate in that discussion.
“We will be certainly be interested in that discussion but I don’t pretend for a moment that it is a formal consultation process.
“We had that in the beginning. We’ll have another formal consultation process when we put in place the planning instrument for this precinct, but what we want to do today is share these concepts with the people of Brisbane and engage them in a discussion about them.”