LAST week the council finally started talking about opening up residential space in the Ipswich CBD.
The announcement was shouted proudly on their favourite go to media outlet, Channel Nine.
The wonderful news they were pushing was that they wanted to help building owners and businesses in Ipswich Central to explore the conversion of their unused space above a store, cafe or office into ‘shop top’ residential living areas.
While that was great to hear the truth is our current council should have been all over this from the first day of the election back in 2020.
They had the perfect opportunity back then with the abandoned building sitting at the top of the mall which formerly housed Harvey Norman, council storage offices and the failed BCC Cinema.
Instead of turning this into a residential opportunity and bringing people into the ghost like CBD they stumbled their way for two years trying to lure a cinema operator to take on the building.
They finally succeeded with this folly when they agreed to a multi-million free fit-out for the Chinese owned Hoyts Cinemas.
Council refuses to tell its ratepayers how much that’s costing them, but figures of around $15million have been whispered in the council corridors.
This decision was also made at a time when cinemas around the country were closing because the movie giants had decided to launch their block busters on pay-for-view cable channels instead of in the theatre.
The CBD redevelopment is a classic case of a group of councillors who were bereft of ideas and so they fell back to a cinema project that had already been shown up as a financial disaster.
Even if it cost $40million dollars plus to refit the building into a residential complex it would have been money well spent.
It would have provided immediate pay back, much needed accommodation, would have brought life back to the mall and would have produced instant clients for any new businesses opening.
Before you start saying I am just a council knocker and I’m against the CBD redevelopment let me say I spoke to current councillors Russell Milligan, Kate Kunzelmann and mayor Teresa Harding about this very issue in a formal meeting prior to their election in 2020.
At that meeting they all accepted that the idea of a cinema had flaws.
The meeting was organised by Riverlink Shopping Centre who wanted to table their support for a vibrant new CBD, but at the same time wanted it known that any new CBD retailers subsidised by council should by complementary to Riverlink retailers and not an opposition to them.
Council over the past two years has still to open a retailer who offers anything different to what is in Riverlink. Let’s get serious, a food outlet is a food outlet, a coffee shop is a coffee shop, an ice-cream shop is an ice-cream shop.
Council continues to pour many thousands into Tulmur Place trying to lure people into the CBD, yet refuses to let some current CBD retailers attend and recently didn’t even consult with nearby CBD shop owners about what they intended to do.
You may believe the Hoyts Cinema is a wonderful idea and you have no concerns about the millions in ratepayer’s funds getting handed to them to do it.
If you fall into this category I’d politely recommend you commit to going to Hoyts at least once a week for the next 10 years so it has a chance of surviving.