The Cross River Rail Project will deliver a much-needed new train station at Woolloongabba, and an upgraded train station at Boggo Road, Dutton Park.
The State Government is currently drafting Development Schemes which will dictate how the land above and around these train stations can be developed. Unfortunately, it looks like there will be very little scope for meaningful public input into the future of the Gabba and Boggo Rd stations.
So our office is supporting the community to get on the front foot and demand more control over how these sites are developed before decisions are made behind closed doors and the development schemes are released.
The Gabba Station development is not just a train station. This is a 5+ hectare site with huge potential to meet a range of community needs.
Below, you can find info about the alternative visions we’ve produced for the Gabba Station, what we think the government is currently planning for both stations, and how you can make your voice heard most effectively. Please enter your contact details at the bottom of the page to sign up for updates about the growing campaign for a better future for this site.
Alternative Visions for the Gabba Station
Our recent newsletter features two alternative visions for how the Cross River Rail Gabba Train Station site could be redeveloped. These images are not detailed proposals. Rather than purporting to be finalised concept designs, they are simply intended to show what’s possible. Some elements may not be feasible in the proposed context, or not quite what the community really needs. But we’ve produced these drawings to share a wider range of ideas and prompt deeper discussions about how both the Gabba and Boggo Road sites could be redeveloped.
So far, images and videos released by the State Government have shown very little detail about the future of the Gabba site, so I’m hoping these visions will inspire residents to produce your own visions for how this massive 5-hectare publicly owned site can best meet the community’s needs. I don’t accept the proposition that these station sites should be sold off to the private sector and simply developed as privately owned offices and high-density private apartment towers.
Both visions include space for an Aboriginal cultural centre, a 50-metre public swimming pool, a large skate park, playgrounds, sports courts, dog off-leash areas and a wide range of community facilities.
Naturally, we envisage that all buildings would be designed to be as sustainable as possible, with an emphasis on sourcing construction materials locally, and using materials like cross-laminated timber to reduce reliance on concrete and steel. All buildings would incorporate stormwater collection, greywater recycling, on-site organic waste composting, water-smart and energy-smart fixtures and appliances, and solar panels on underutilised roof and awning spaces.
Download: Gabba Station Alternative Visions (pdf)
The Mixed-Use Vision features a couple of office blocks and medium-density and higher-density apartment blocks, containing several hundred dwellings. We believe the government should retain ownership of all dwellings on the site and rent them out as public housing, with rent set at 25% of a household’s income. We envisage that these apartments could be rented not just to high-needs low-income residents, but also to middle-income and higher-income households, creating a diverse community of residents of different backgrounds and financial positions who all live in similar-style housing and have access to the same public facilities. Office space could be made freely available to government departments and non-profit organisations like Murri Watch, or rented out to the private sector as a source of revenue.
The Mixed-Use Vision shows a pedestrian overpass to the Gabba Stadium, which has also been proposed by the State Government. However unlike State Government concept designs, we envisage that such an overpass could also span Stanley Street, connecting cyclists and pedestrians to and from the Logan Road precinct and south-east active transport corridors. This serves a broader range of uses, whereas an overpass to the Gabba Stadium would be of comparatively little value on the many days of the year where large events aren’t hosted at the stadium.
The Blue-Green Vision does not include any residential apartments, but offers more space for sport and recreation, with a full-sized athletics track, as well as larger parks, community gardens and market stall spaces for artisans and farmers markets. The Blue-Green Vision also includes space for natural lagoons and densely vegetated bushland reserves, cooling the city, reducing stormwater flooding, and providing more habitat for native wildlife.
The Blue-Green Vision proposes to work with the sloping nature of the site, nestling a large underground music venue into the corner of Leopard St and the Vulture St motorway slip lane, with parkland over the music venue roof that connects to the existing corridor of native trees around the motorway. This would dramatically improve connectivity for native wildlife moving between central Woolloongabba and Maiwar (the Brisbane River).
If you have further questions about some of the other ideas and elements depicted in these alternative visions, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can add more detail to this explanation. You might also like to share your own thoughts on social media, and post about which elements of the vision you do or don’t like.
What’s currently proposed for the Gabba Station site?
The State Government has provided no clear detail about its plans for the Gabba Station development. As this is public land, the government should be focussed on delivering public housing, community facilities and public green space. However, based on what has already happened to other components of the Cross River Rail project – such as the Albert St station in the CBD – and the commentary so far in government publications, we are concerned that the government is planning to sell off development rights to the private sector to crowd the entire site with highrises.
Priority Development Area Designation
In Woolloongabba, the government has designated a massive area of 21 hectares as a Cross River Rail Priority Development Area, incorporating the Gabba Stadium, the former GoPrint site and other parcels of state-owned land around the motorway. A ‘Priority Development Area’ (PDA) designation is the same mechanism which was used for the Queen’s Wharf Mega-Casino and for the Toondah Harbour development proposal in the Redlands. It allows the State Government to ignore existing height limits and other requirements in the City Plan, and takes away all legal objection rights that residents or other stakeholders might otherwise have.
The new Woolloongabba Priority Development Area
Crucially, under the PDA framework, the State Government is not obliged to contribute towards the cost of local infrastructure beyond the boundaries of the declared site. This means that private developers who partner with the government can introduce much higher population densities than anticipated under the neighbourhood plan, but are under no obligation to help pay for new pedestrian crossings, bike lanes, libraries etc. to support the growing population.
PDA designations have been widely criticised for undemocratically cutting out local residents from having any input into future development plans. They are a mechanism to fast-track development and privatise public assets.
As part of the PDA process, the government will have to release a ‘Development Scheme’ outlining the parameters of how the site can be developed. This document essentially serves as a mini-Neighbourhood Plan, outlining development height limits, site coverage requirements etc. The government says the Development Scheme for the Woolloongabba PDA will be introduced in 2021, after the state election. This means residents won’t know what’s proposed when they go to vote in October this year, and may not know what the various parties and candidates support and stand for.
What’s likely in the new Development Scheme?
In guessing at what the government might do, we can look at the Interim Land Use Plan released by the government in April 2020 when the PDA was declared. The ILUP sets out some development parameters for ‘Precinct 1,’ of the PDA, which is the area closest to the Gabba Stadium, and includes Woolloongabba Place Park. We can also look at the previous (now out-of-date) development scheme for the site from 2011.
On page 28 of the old development scheme, the State Government allows buildings of up to 30 storeys.
Following the plan in the old development scheme, the new Interim Land Use Plan allows buildings of up to 20 storeys within Precinct 1. ‘Precinct 1’ is adjacent to heritage buildings and furthest from the train station entrance itself, so ordinarily you might expect that buildings within this part of the PDA would be shorter and less dense than building closer to the centre of the site.
So this suggests a high likelihood that in the new development scheme, the government will propose multiple highrise towers on the main GoPrint site which are 30 storeys or even taller.
This is clearly reinforced in the illustrative visualisations released by the State Government in March 2020, which also show 12 very tall highrise towers on the site.
While there has been no mention from the government whatsoever of public housing on the Gabba Station, the Cross River Rail website makes it very clear that ‘commercial, retail and residential development’ is anticipated.
So it seems clear that unless there is very strong community pushback and a clear public demand for a different way forward, this entire site will be developed and sold off as privately owned highrise towers, with very little public green space or community facilities, and no public housing.
Why are you opposed to high-density development? It’s a train station after all
In urban planning circles, there is now strong support for concentrating higher-density development around public transport nodes like train stations. When residents have close access to public transport, they are less likely to rely on private cars, which has a wide range of positive flow-on benefits. So-called ‘transport oriented developments’ are certainly preferable to the outer-suburban sprawl developments that have been so disastrously common around south-east Queensland.
However, it’s important to strike the right balance. Residents of high-density development also need access to public green space and community facilities, particularly because they have so little private space of their own. If we are to reduce car-dependence, we need to reduce the need for apartment residents to drive regularly to outer-suburban parks, sports fields and other public facilities that might not be located along a train line.
In evaluating the best way to develop the Gabba and Boggo Rd train station sites, it’s important to consider the broader neighbourhood and citywide contexts, and all the other needs that the redevelopment of public land should strive to meet.
Around the Gabba, all privately owned sites to the north of Vulture St and to the south of Stanley St have already been zoned for high-density development of up to 20 storeys. Further development is proposed to the south-east along Logan Rd, to the west in South Brisbane, and to the north in Kangaroo Point. And yet, the provision of public green space and community facilities like public pools, libraries, halls, and creative spaces is not keeping pace with private development.
As shown by the orange and dark red areas on this BCC City Plan Zoning Map, much of the land surrounding the Gabba is already zoned for high-density development, while very little is zoned green for public parkland...
There is already a chronic shortage of public parkland in particular, and acquiring private land to create new parks would be prohibitively expensive. As more sites develop, the pressure on existing green spaces will increase further. The Desired Standards of Service in Brisbane City Council’s City Plan identify that for every 1000 residents, there should be 1.4 hectares of public parkland in the immediate local area. Woolloongabba already falls far short of this target.
If the Gabba station is developed with a large amount of high-density housing, this would place further strain on public parks and facilities, whereas if it is developed with more parkland and public facilities, this will provide a net benefit to residents of existing and future high-density developments surrounding the train station site.
At a time when inner-city land is in such short supply, selling off public assets for private development is a short-sighted strategy.
Considered in their broader context, it might make sense for the publicly owned Gabba and Boggo Rd station sites to be delivered with a higher proportion of public green space, thus supporting and encouraging high-density living on the private development sites around the edge of each station.
Residents of high-density development around other inner-city train stations also need access to green space. So by providing new parks and facilities at the Gabba and Boggo Rd stations, we can create opportunities for residents around stations like Albert St and South Brisbane to hop on a train and easily access sports fields close to home, rather than having to travel further afield. This in turn increases the attractiveness of high-density inner-city living, and helps our city resist the pressure for more and more outer-suburban sprawl.
What about the Boggo Road Precinct?
The Boggo Road precinct, which includes the State Heritage-listed gaol and the Ecosciences building, is a crucial node of the inner-south side, adjoining Dutton Park State School, the new Dutton Park High School, the PA Hospital, UQ St Lucia (via the Green Bridge) and serving as a major interchange for busways and train lines.
Most of this precinct is State Government-owned land, however there is currently no up-to-date, publicly available holistic vision for how the Boggo Rd precinct should evolve.
The Cross River Rail station development should of course consider the surrounding context, and be planned alongside proposals for the revitalisation of the gaol, future expansions to Dutton Park State School etc. The lack of a holistic plan for the entire precinct is deeply concerning.
BCC’s Dutton Park-Fairfield Neighbourhood Plan articulates some general aspirations, but this neighbourhood plan does not include anywhere near enough public green space or community facilities, lacks detail about the Boggo Road precinct itself, is likely to be overridden by State Government planning mechanisms, and is already out of date (e.g. it does not include consideration of the new Dutton Park high school etc.).
BCC has also recently produced a draft ‘Boggo Road Precinct Renewal Strategy’ which has no legal effect or associated funding, and is largely silent as to how all this State-owned land should be developed and activated, focussing instead on connections to and through the precinct.
At this stage, the only detail that’s been publicly released by the State Government is a 2-minute video overview of the project. The government has emphasised that this video is not a finalised concept plan. The video appears to show large new buildings to the north and east of the Ecosciences precinct, but doesn’t specify what these buildings will be used for, and is silent as to whether they’ll remain in public ownership or will be sold off to the private sector.
Screenshot from the State Government's video of the Boggo Rd CRR precinct showing proposed large buildings in white
The government has also confirmed that the long-awaited footbridge linking Boggo Rd to the PA hospital will be delivered as part of this project, creating a new east-west pedestrian and cycling link between Dutton Park and Ipswich Rd. But there’s no detail whatsoever about how much public green space will be delivered.
To facilitate construction of the upgraded station, the State Government has resumed Outlook Park (which had an area of 1500m2), promising to offset its loss with a new public park of equal quality and size. In November 2017, our State MP Jackie Trad also announced that the 3700m2 triangle of state-owned land between Boggo Rd and the existing Boggo Rd Busway Station would either be used for the new high school or for green space. So if the State Government does the right thing and sticks to previous public statements, the Boggo Road Station redevelopment should include well over 5000m2 of public green space, in addition to concreted public squares and plazas.
Previous government commitments suggest there should be at least 5000m2 of new parkland within the Boggo Rd precinct
I believe the redevelopment of the Boggo Rd Station site must be planned holistically as part of redevelopment proposals for the gaol itself, and other surrounding sites. Neither Brisbane City Council nor the State Government have provided enough clarity about future plans for this area, or given residents any meaningful say as to how all this publicly owned land should or shouldn’t be utilised.
While the area of the Boggo Road Station development site itself is not as large as the Gabba Station, it’s important to understand that the government also owns significant parcels of land around the PA Hospital and train lines. When you consider the possibility of building over parts of the train line in future, and incorporating the storage sheds and carparks along the train line and busway into the Boggo Rd precinct, we’re talking about a total area of 160 000m2 of state-owned land. This is clearly a huge opportunity that local residents should have input into, rather than leaving all the decisions up to politicians and private developers.
Once COVID-19 restrictions ease, we aim to organise further public meetings and events regarding the Boggo Rd site, so that we can push for outcomes that meet the community’s needs and pressure the State Government to stick to its previous commitments regarding the provision of public parkland.
How can we get better outcomes?
Back in the 1980s, property developers were actively lobbying for high-density highrise development along the South Brisbane riverfront between Grey St and the water’s edge. Developers deployed sustainability and affordability arguments for concentrating denser housing near the CBD in order to justify privatising public land and cramming in taller towers along the river.
Fortunately, building upon the momentum of Expo 88, a broad-based community campaign applied enough pressure for a different vision for this precinct to crystallise. Instead of cramming in as many apartments as possible, political leaders agreed to preserve much of South Bank for public parkland and community facilities. Today, South Bank is a destination that locals and visitors travel great distances to enjoy.
To prevent the privatisation and over-development of the Gabba and Boggo Rd Cross River Rail train station sites, and push for positive development outcomes that are in the wider public interest, we will need a similar kind of community campaign that applies pressure on politicians and government departments through a range of channels.
The first step is to raise awareness and broaden the parameters of debate, so that thousands of residents across Brissie’s inner-south side are excited about the alternative possibilities for these sites and are directly contacting MPs to ask them what they support, particularly in the lead-up to the 2020 October state election.
If you want to get involved with this community campaign, please enter your details and sign up for updates.
It would also help if you can write to key government decision-makers as soon as possible to ask them specific questions and share what you think is important.
Please email the following people:
- Minister for State Development, Kate Jones - email@example.com
- State MP for South Brisbane, Jackie Trad - South.Brisbane@parliament.qld.gov.au
In your emails, tell them a bit about who you are and why you care about these sites, and ask them the following questions:
Roughly how many apartments do you think there should be on each site?
How many hectares of new public green space do you think each site include?
What maximum building height limits are appropriate for both the Gabba and Boggo Rd sites?
Do you support selling off private development rights, or will you fight to retain full public ownership of both sites?
Please also email:
- Minister for Housing and Public Works, Mick De Brenni - firstname.lastname@example.org - ask him how much public housing will be delivered on the Gabba Station site
- Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner - email@example.com - ask him where he intends to deliver new public parkland in Woolloongabba and Dutton Park to cater for new high-density development
Other steps you can take:
- Talk to friends and family and post up on social media about what kind of development you’d like to see on these two train station sites
- Contact other elected State MPs and other state election candidates to ask them whether they support including more green space and public facilities above and around these train stations, or whether they support the State Government’s current plans to sell off the sites for private highrise development
- Get together with a group of friends or a community group you’re involved in, produce your own alternative vision for either the Boggo Rd or Gabba train station sites, and share it with our office and the wider community
Please sign up for updates and encourage your friends to do so too!