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Brisbane to revamp CBD master plan for post-COVID growth

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Brisbane City Council its set to embark on a rewrite of its city centre master plan for the first time in eight years as the CBD economy struggles to emerge from the battering caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The move follows a round of business lobbying for the council to demonstrate it recognises the impact of the pandemic on the way people connect with and move around the CBD and update its long-term plans for managing inner-city growth.

The current city centre master plan was finalised in 2014. The council’s deputy mayor and chair of city planning and economic development Krista Adams said the plan was instrumental in securing investment in public infrastructure.

However, she said that more than 20 new towers, 11 hotel approvals and several student accommodation buildings had been built since the last plan was released and, far from slowing down, the council realised ti was time to “hit the accelerator”.

“We only have to look out over the skyline and see that the Brisbane city is a hive of activity, with a series of major projects underway, ” she told a recent council meeting.

“Before coronavirus, we had over 120,000 workers based in the CBD, that’s almost a quarter of the total economic value for the entire local government area.”

“So expanding this focus, we include key inner city knowledge and lifestyle precincts, Bowen Hills, Fortitude Valley, West End, Woolloongabba. You then go up to 40% of our gross product in Brisbane.”

Big infrastructure project such as Cross River Rail, Brisbane Metro and the Queens Wharf development are powering on despite the pandemic but some small businesses continue to struggle with reduced footfall and a likely permanent shift to working from home.

As a first step, the council is scrambling to draw up an interim action plan to kickstart economic activity in the city centre.

Adams said public feedback on what should be included in the interim action plan is open until April 20.

“By acting quickly on this, within the next few weeks to hear back from people, we will be meeting with industry stakeholders to hear firsthand about some of their challenges and some of the opportunities they see facing Brisbane in the years to come,” she said.

The council’s move comes as debate increases on Brisbane’s competitive advantages compared with other Australian capital cities.

Urban strategist James Tuma said Brisbane “has a unique situation where significant precincts which have been developed as the city has developed”

As a result the city had led the way in creating precincts based on knowledge industries and urban renewal, citing the Newstead and Teneriffe areas and the health knowledge sectors growing up around Herston and the Prince Alexandra Hospital.

But he aid it was important to maintain focus on the CBD.

“Securing a knowledge based economy you need physical contact between people so there will always be a role of people to come together in one setting,” he said.

Tuma said the change in the way people interacted with the CBD as a result of the pandemic was a challenge but he doubted it would reduce the importance of the city centre.

“I don’t know how sticky those behaviours will be,” he said.

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