Thursday, 27 October 2011

Cairns CBD another plan | another revamp

Green light given for $80m makeover of Cairns central business district

Daniel Strudwick
Thursday, October 27, 2011
© The Cairns Post

PLANS for an $81.5 million overhaul of Cairns' tired CBD have been given the green light by Cairns Regional Council.

And councillors are adamant that work should begin immediately on the inner-city transformation so the master plan "doesn’t sit on a shelf gathering dust".Priority projects in the 15-year master plan include the greening of Grafton St and the creation of the Shields St "heart", which both propose a series of pedestrian-friendly parks along the popular CBD corridors.

The master plan, which was fast-tracked in response to The Cairns Post’s CBD Revive campaign, was endorsed unanimously by councillors yesterday after going out for public consultation in July. As well as reviving the drab and patchwork appearance of public spaces in the city centre, the master plan aims to lure investors back to the CBD, which has battled low occupancy rates since the global financial crisis.

The council will recruit an "economic development champion" to negotiate positive incentives for major companies to set up shop in Cairns. It will target sectors such as medical tourism, government agencies and mining and logistics companies to boost economic development in the region. The champion will also lobby State and Federal governments to help fund the makeover, which has an estimated cost of $81.5 million.

CRC has allocated $490,000 to scoping and design works this year and it is likely that money will be committed for capital works next year. According to early costings, two blocks of Grafton St could be transformed for $5 million and the first stage of the Shields St overhaul could be done for $4.7 million.

The state’s Department of Transport and Main Roads is finalising its plans for City Place on Lake St and will brief councillors about the future of the site next week. Cr Alan Blake, whose division takes in the CBD, said master plan construction should get started as soon as possible. Cr Blake and Mayor Val Schier urged councillors not to scuttle the project over concerns about a loss of parking in the city centre. Almost 60 carparks would be lost on Grafton St once the shaded parks are constructed. "I’m always concerned about taking carparks out of the city, but I think green space is just as important," Cr Blake said. "We’re going to build highrise carparking on Grafton St so we’ll be retaining as many carparks as we can."

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