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War on the waterfront as Eagle Street tower defends its position

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The owners of Brisbane’s waterfront Riparian Plaza will oppose an adjacent development the State Government wanted to provide economic stimulus.

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The Dexus group has applied to build two towers of 49 storeys and 43 storeys, with a combined 120,000 square metres of office space, on the site of the 30-year-old Eagle Street Pier. The project is known as Waterfront Brisbane.

If approved by Brisbane City Council, work would commence in 2022, requiring that section of the Riverwalk to be closed for two years and the first tower completed by 2026. The second tower would not be built for some time and likely be left as public and retail space.

But the owners of the adjacent Riparian Plaza building, Riverside Development Pty Ltd, have formally registered their opposition to the project.

In a submission prepared by Bloomberg Incorporation, the Riparian Plaza owners argue the proposed development would be inconsistent with the city plan and dominate the skyline and waterfront. If council approved the development, it would be setting a precedent that would “essentially procure a river wall of towers of considerable bulk and scale with little contextual relationship to their neighbouring properties or responsiveness with the city grid”.

“Where presently a riverfront built form exists showcasing Brisbane’s tower-in-plaza architecture that is quintessentially subtropical in nature, a Sydney-centric tower-over-podium vision is at risk of evolving,” the submission argues.

Between the new buildings and Waterfront Place office tower would be Mary Street Plaza, linking to an upgraded Riverwalk.

The Government provided land to Dexus to support the project, which State Development Minister Kate Jones has described as a form of economic stimulus.

“This project has the potential to create more than 1000 construction jobs and will transform the tired old Eagle Street precinct into one of the most attractive places in the country to visit and to do business,” Jones has said.

“When this development starts to come online in 2026, Brisbane will be an entirely new city, with Cross River Rail up and running and the $3.6 billion Queen’s Wharf shopping and dining precinct fully operational on the other side of town. We are doing the hard work now to ensure that Brisbane is the envy of cities such as Sydney and Melbourne.”

Bloomberg stated that the owners of Riparian Plaza were “not opposed to a redevelopment of the existing Eagle Street Pier site per se”.

“As property owners and developers we understand acutely the need for construction activity to underpin a robust economy, and particularly in the current climate, to facilitate an economic recovery,” their submission states.

“However, a fundamental issue for council to consider in this instance is not whether it is economically needful to approve a development of this nature. Rather, whether it is prudent to approve a development of such excessive scale, bulk and form, so as to deviate so significantly from council’s vision and the principles of its planning schemes for Brisbane’s CBD, particularly its City Reach.”

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