Carries over from: “We are not embarrassed by cost blowout”
IPSWICH Council has reacted to intense media scrutiny on the massive blowout in costs on its CBD Venue and Cinema building project by going on the offensive.
Last week they held a press conference on the site inviting media outlets to come along and see inside the build and to view artist impressions of what the project will look like when completed.
Only three journalists attended, a young reporter from Channel Seven, an ABC representative and this newspaper.
If any of the journalists had hoped the conference would be a chance to get some clear answers inside the project’s explosion in costs that took it from $15m to almost $49m they left disappointed.
The mayor didn’t attend, instead CBD redevelopment committee chair, Cr Marnie Doyle, was left to face the questions alone.
Once again council refused to divulge to ratepayers any details regarding the extent of council’s commitment towards the multi-million dollar Hoyts Cinema fit out.
Cr Doyle would only say “the commercial terms of this agreement will be shared when we are able to do so … we don’t want to give any of our competitor’s an edge.”
This newspaper has reported on numerous occasions that it’s believed Hoyts has been gifted a free fit out.
It’s understood a major part of the cost blowout centres on this fit out with the six old theatre boxes now having to be destroyed and rebuilt due to contamination by massive amounts of black mould.
Other factors include the need to adhere to modern new requirements for cinemas involving such things as disability access and seating.
When Birch, Carroll and Coyle abandoned the theatres some years ago they were stripped out.
The screens were shredded and seats were dumped, leaving just empty shells were left.
The old seats couldn’t have been used anyway and the required new 600 plus chairs alone are believed to be costing in the vicinity of $750,000.
Cr Doyle was asked if council had done any research into the costs associated with a modern cinema fit out before signing the Hoyt’s contract.
After first trying to deflect the question she answered: “on my watch I have done everything possible to ensure that due diligence is appropriate and effective and I am happy to stand by that and if we need to do better, I am absolutely wanting to do that as well.”
Cr Doyle didn’t hesitate to say that even if council had known the project would blow out to $48m they would still have gone ahead with it.
“I’m excited by this project and so are my residents,” she said.
She also said she and the council were not embarrassed by the huge cost blowout.
While Cr Doyle didn’t detail if any new tenants had signed up to lease space in the CBD she did say they were getting plenty of interest.
That said council has been saying that for years and so far they have just managed to secure a few food outlets and a beauty shop.
The conference was also used to detail the previous 100 year old cinema history of the CBD and how the new project was carrying on this tradition.
What they failed to acknowledge was the fact that since that time modern cinema complexes have opened at Riverlink, Redbank Plaza and Springfield.
When asked how much longer Ipswich Council was going to play in the retail space Cr Doyle said the long-term future for council was to manage the CBD project for the next two to three years and then take it to the market.
“Council doesn’t want to be a shopping centre owner, but also doesn’t want to hand over the baby early,” she said.