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Brisbane CBD changes over next decade to change the face of the city

A "collision of challenges and opportunities" is facing Brisbane's CBD as new projects and vision for the city's heart begin to roll out with gusto.

Brisbane City Council recently released its plans for the revitalisation of Mary Street and the partial reforestation and regeneration of Victoria Park/Barrambin.

Urban and social planner and University of Queensland senior lecturer Stephanie Wyeth said one of the biggest challenges for Brisbane was to "reimagine what an inner city is, coming out of a pandemic".

She said achieving the right mix of commercial and residential buildings was as important as creating a city heart that was "greener and fairer" for all its residents.

And among all that, the city was preparing to meet challenges such as climate change, digital transformation, hybrid work environments and the associated health and economic changes.

Ms Wyeth said the central city or precinct could be about work and livability, and education.

"Humans need to cluster close together to bounce ideas off each other and create, and coming out of a pandemic, we need that in a safe way," she said.

"The fact we all gather underneath a noisy bridge at Howard Smith Wharves at the bend of a muddy river, that's pretty amazing. We're drawn to each other.

Ms Wyeth said things were changing in the city, and not all for the better.

"We like to think we're fair and egalitarian and that in Brisbane, it doesn't matter where you live, we still have opportunities, but we are losing that," she said.

"So, how do we rewire our inner city to give us the city we want? We need it to support diversity and people."

She said they needed to ask whether the city was culturally safe and if it was safe for women and young people to walk around.

Ms Wyeth also called for decision makers to think more about how individual projects worked together.

She said linking South Bank to Queen's Wharf via the Neville Bonner Bridge and the CBD to Kangaroo Point via a green bridge were ways of integrating both the north and south sides of the city.

"We're not that big a city, but at the moment, we are a city of individual projects," Ms Wyeth said.

"Brisbane has sometimes been described as a city of villages, and we need to go beyond the north and south divide.

"Brisbane is the engine room for the whole state. It's not just about what individual projects mean for the CBD, but what they mean for the rest of the city and Queensland."

Projects on track to change Brisbane

Queen's Wharf

One of Brisbane's biggest developments is the Queen's Wharf casino and resort complex, set to be operated by Star Entertainment Group. Set close to Parliament House on the Brisbane River and facing South Bank, the 26-hectare complex includes a central half-moon tower for the casino, two residential towers, a commercial tower, and luxury hotels. The $3.6 billion budget for the casino and resort was recently reported to have blown out by $260 million, and the completion date is now set for the end of 2023.

Waterfront Brisbane

The $2 billion overhaul of the Expo '88-era Eagle Street Pier was announced by Dexus in 2019, clearing away the circular white restaurant complex and replacing it with two office towers of 49 and 43 storeys each. The ground floor will include an expanded river walk and public space. Waterfront Brisbane was approved by Brisbane City Council but is currently going through a planning court appeal. The first tower's expected completion date is in 2026.

Brisbane Live

A proposed 18,000-seat entertainment and sports arena is to be built over the Roma Street precinct within the state government's declared Priority Development Area. The Brisbane Live stadium is yet to see any concrete plans put forward. Reports have recently emerged that the state government is considering alternative sites for the venue amid concerns about its viability in such a dense area of the CBD.

Cross River Rail

Major underground stations at Roma Street and Albert Street will allow thousands of commuters to move quickly in and around the CBD. The $5.4 billion Cross River Rail is inching closer to completion, with services on the underground train routes expected to start in 2024.

Neville Bonner and Kangaroo Point bridges

As part of Queen's Wharf, a new pedestrian bridge named for Australia's first Indigenous Senator will link the casino complex to South Bank, while across the CBD the council is constructing a new pedestrian and cycling bridge connecting Kangaroo Point to the City Botanic Gardens. The $100 million Neville Bonner Bridge is expected to be opened when Queen's Wharf is complete, and the $190 million Kangaroo Point Green Bridge will open in 2024.

CBD upgrades

Brisbane City Council has put forward several plans to redevelop the city's major thoroughfares, including Adelaide Street and Mary Street. Draft proposals to beautify both streets have been released and include concepts such as wider footpaths, fewer vehicle lanes, and more street activation, such as seating and open-air restaurants. The council has also championed separated cycling lanes through the CBD, with a $1 million trial of separated lanes completed this year and now under review.

Brisbane Metro

The council's mass transit project is already making inroads into the CBD, with a tunnel being constructed at the top end of Adelaide Street for large electric buses to go underground and connect with the King George Square bus station. The $1.2 billion project is expected to start taking passengers in late 2023.

Private development

Brisbane's CBD is undergoing another transformation, with major office tower developments underway. The often neglected North Quay sector, known originally as the legal and law enforcement sector, has been targeted by developers recently with plans for apartment and hotel towers, including twin towers proposed by Maple Group on Coronation Drive and a 38-storey tower proposed by Cbus.

Victoria Park

Just north of the CBD proper sits the former Victoria Park Golf Course, a 50-hectare green space now slated to become a major new public park.

Brisbane City Council originally set aside $80 million for planning the transformation of the parklands, which will host some Olympic sports, including equestrian cross country in 2032.

Lord mayor Adrian Schrinner this week said the staged development doesn't yet have a price tag but is anticipated to take 10-15 years to complete.

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