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CBD heart starter: Council plans 'subtropical boulevards' to revive inner Brisbane

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Brisbane’s beleaguered city centre will be the target of an intense council and business effort to lift its stocks as it emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic, with plans for more pedestrian crossings, special events and shadier streets to bring people back to the area.

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Brisbane City Council has launched the first stage of a revamped City Centre Master Plan aimed at restoring the CBD’s vitality as a place to live and work.

The plan includes installing more mid-block pedestrian crossings, temporarily closing entire streets for certain events and introducing creative lighting in some areas.

Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner said the plan, which would replace a strategy drawn up in 2014, would address short-term and long-term needs of the CBD.

“We want Brisbane’s city centre to be a vibrant, welcoming place where residents and visitors love to come and where businesses, both big and small, want to be based,” he said.

“We also want our CBD to thrive as we journey towards hosting the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games because this will be where tens of thousands of people from around the globe visit and then share their stories about Brisbane.”

Mask mandates and other restrictions have had a devastating effect on the CBD, with activity markedly down on levels prior to the pandemic.

The council move is aimed at boosting the attractiveness of the city centre, which has seen pedestrian traffic drop by a third on average over the past two years.

Office vacancy rates are also on the slide after a brief pickup earlier this year.

The plan would see a beefing-up of activities in the city centre, including closing off streets for certain events. It would take better advantage of the transformation of Edward, Albert and Adelaide Streets into “subtropical boulevards” linking parks and major public spaces.

It is understood the council is also working on a “vision” for Mary Street, which is likely to become an important pedestrian “spine” given that it will be “bookended” by the Queens Wharf and Waterfront Brisbane developments.

The city centre plan has already been given a tick by the Property Council of Australia’s Queensland division, with its executive director Jen Williams saying now was the time to “enliven the city’s heart”.

“As it is not yet clear which of the social trends emerging over the past 18 months will be structural and which are temporary, an interim action plan is needed to help build momentum while life returns to ‘normal’,” she said.

Some urban strategists have suggested that while the way people interacted with city centres had changed during the pandemic, the “stickiness” of such behaviours was open to question.

Since the 2014 plan, nearly 20 new towers, 11 hotel approvals and several student accommodation buildings have been added to the CBD.

The second stage of the City Centre Master Plan will be unveiled early next year.

 

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