Let’s compare these two buildings shall we?
The tower on Scott St, Kangaroo Point in the first picture is over 15 storeys tall, and yet contains only 14 dwellings. They are large, high-end apartments that sell for well over $4.5 million each. The footprint of the tower is about 600m2.
The apartment block on Baines St, Kangaroo Point in the second image also has a footprint of 600m2, is 4 storeys tall, and includes 15 dwellings. It also has a restaurant/café at ground-level to help activate and enliven the streetscape, whereas the Scott St tower design doesn’t do much to connect with the street and surrounding neighbourhood.
The Scott St tower apartments are all 4-bedrooms and the Baines St apartments are a mix of 1, 2 and 3 bedrooms. In practice, both of these buildings currently accommodate a similar number of people (there are actually more empty bedrooms in the Scott St tower).
I have concerns about the design of both of these developments, and I’m not necessarily saying one is all-round better than the other, or that either of them are an especially desirable model for future development. We certainly need more larger apartments in the inner-city to accommodate families, and I assume the much more spacious Scott St apartments will be nicer to live in than the somewhat cramped Baines St ones (and they better be, considering the huge price tag).
But it’s worth noting that the Baines St apartments will have used far fewer resources in their construction and thus have a lower environmental footprint and embodied energy. In terms of ongoing maintenance and operation, it’s also a fair assumption that the Scott St apartments will use more energy to heat and cool, and that a lot more energy is used in pumping water etc. up to higher levels.
The Baines St apartments are clearly a heck of a lot cheaper, and do not have the same dramatic visual impact on the skyline and surrounding neighbourhood. (And it probably won’t take residents 10 minutes of climbing to get down to street-level if there’s an emergency and the elevator loses power)
Often, when highrise developers argue for exemptions to the neighbourhood plan and demand the right to build bigger taller buildings that overshadow neighbouring properties and block out the sky, they use two main arguments:
1. Highrise development improves affordability
2. Highrise development is more sustainable because you accommodate more people in a compact area.
But as this comparison shows, just because one building is a lot taller than another, doesn’t mean it necessarily improves affordability, or is more sustainable.
In fact, the Scott St tower arguably exemplifies some of the less desirable impacts of new development in Brisbane... The apartments are not very affordable, and have enclosed and commodified a lot of public airspace. Rather than allowing more low-income workers to live close to the CBD, this kind of development puts upward pressure on property values and forces poorer people out of the neighbourhood.
Obviously I don't have anything against the residents who live in either of these buildings, or against the companies that built them. My concerns are primarily related to design and built form.
Basically what I’m getting at is that our conversations about dwelling density, sustainability and built form in Australian cities are way too simplistic, and need to pay much closer attention to the relative size of bedrooms and living spaces (among other things) when evaluating what kind of building heights and densities we support.
On Wednesday, 22 April I was sworn in again as a city councillor for the new 4-year term.
The first meeting of council came with some disappointing news: the LNP denied my request to remain on the City Planning Committee, which I’ve served on for the past four years. I’ve consistently used my position on that committee to advocate for better quality development and deeper conversations about how our city changes and evolves. I presume they decided that having Brisbane’s only Greens Councillor as one of the six members of that committee was inconvenient.
Whatever their reasoning, I hope that the new Chair of the City Planning Committee, Councillor Krista Adams, understands and cares about the kinds of concerns I’ve articulated above.
Unfortunately, a lot of councillors don’t spend much time thinking about this sort of stuff when they’re deciding whether to support or oppose a particular development project. They get suckered in by property market spin, and when a smooth-talking developer comes to them and says “Hey I know this project is way taller than the height limit, but you should approve it because it’s an affordable and sustainable alternative to suburban sprawl” they swallow it uncritically.
The COVID-19 shutdown has probably put the brakes on the construction boom temporarily, but developers are already lobbying for looser regulations and less ‘red tape’ so that they can get approval for new projects that are driven by the pursuit of profit rather than sustainability or equity.
As we emerge from the shutdown, let’s hope the residents and elected representatives of this city engage in a deeper, more meaningful conversation about sustainable development and what kind of city we want Brissie to become, rather than just giving developers whatever they want...
I’ve spent the past four years listening to the community to better understand what kinds of improvements local residents and small businesses want to see happen around the suburbs of South Brisbane, Highgate Hill, West End, Woolloongabba, Dutton Park and Kangaroo Point.
My vision for the Gabba Ward is continually evolving in response to community feedback, so please let me know what you think of it by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s difficult to comprehensively list all the changes I’d like to see happen in our neighbourhood, particularly the community projects and social and cultural transformations that should happen alongside the delivery of physical infrastructure and government services. Alongside the so-called 'hard infrastructure,' I believe there should be far more council funding and support for community services, sporting groups, and the arts.
The priorities featured below tend to focus on the projects that I think Brisbane City Council and the State Government can realistically deliver in the next few years, but with an appreciation of the need to also plan ahead for long-term challenges.
Rather than vague statements, I've done my best to clearly outline my current position on a range of local issues so residents know exactly where I stand. It won’t be possible to deliver all of this in just a few years, but this is what we’re working towards... If there’s anything you’d like clarified, please get in touch.
Rethinking Development in the Inner-City
We support heavy restrictions on for-profit development within the low-lying flood-prone parts of the Gabba Ward. We support well-designed mixed-used, medium-density development that’s accompanied by adequate infrastructure and services. We support more trees and green space being delivered within new developments. Currently, developers are only required to allocate 10% of site area for deep planting. The LNP publicly committed over a year ago to increase the requirement to 15% but haven’t yet implemented this. We believe all new high-density developments should set aside a minimum 20% of the site area for deep-planted trees.
Streets for People – Reimagining Transport in Brisbane
Our citywide philosophy for reimagining transport in Brisbane can be found at this link. Broadly speaking, we want more pedestrian crossings, wider, shadier footpaths, lower speed limits on residential streets (with more traffic calming where necessary) and separated bike lanes on main transport corridors. Check out the link, and view more details about specific transport commitments below.
Free Off-Peak Public Transport for Everyone
To reduce congestion and improve accessibility and connectivity, we’re calling for free off-peak public transport. We can make buses and CityCats free during weekdays and weeknights in the off-peak period, as well as free all weekend. More details available at this link.
Free Cross-River Ferries and Kangaroo Point CityCat
In addition to calling for all bus, CityCat and ferry services to become free for everyone during off-peak periods, we support making all existing cross-river ferry services free, 24/7. We also support reviewing the CityCat timetable and network to introduce a CityCat service to the Holman Street ferry terminal at Kangaroo Point.
Two New CityGlider Routes
We are calling for two new CityGlider routes, one running east-west from West End to Bulimba, and the other running north-south from Annerley to Fortitude Valley (through Kangaroo Point and Woolloongabba). More details at this link.
Full Bus Network Review
We are calling for a full network review of Brisbane bus routes, with a strong focus on increasing the frequency and reliability of services running through the inner-south side, particularly the 192, 196, 198 and 234 bus routes.
We’re calling for new footbridges from West End to Toowong and Kangaroo Point to the CBD. Other parties have expressed cautious support for these projects, but have not committed to allocating funding for them. We believe these bridges should carry pedestrians, cyclists and escooters, but not buses.
We are also open to supporting the proposal for a footbridge between West End and UQ St Lucia, but believe further detailed research, transport modelling and a cost benefit analysis should be conducted (in addition to more robust community consultation) before any project funding is allocated. A detailed write-up about my position on the footbridges is available at this link.
As part of the Kangaroo Point footbridge project, we believe council needs to deliver a wheelchair accessible Story Bridge underpass. The current underpass between Thornton St and Deakin St has multiple sets of steps and so is not wheelchair accessible. Depending on detailed design and engineering investigations, it may be more cost-effective and less disruptive to create a second, new underpass connecting from slightly further north along Deakin St directly to Scott St.
New ‘Kurilpa West’ Citycat Terminal
Recent and anticipated population growth for the western side of the Kurilpa Peninsula (particularly along Montague Rd) means that new high-capacity public transport services will be needed to move people in and out of West End.
We support a new CityCat terminal being delivered along Riverside Drive. The South Brisbane Riverside Neighbourhood Plan identifies Victoria St as a possible location for a new terminal, however it may be more appropriate to locate the terminal slightly further north near Beesley St to facilitate better access to and from Davies Park.
I do not believe that proposals for a new footbridge and CityCat terminal are mutually exclusive. The two projects meet different transport needs and are complementary. Both will be necessary in order to help inner-city residents transition away from car-dependency.
Convert Flood-Prone Industrial Sites to Public Parkland in 4101
We support acquiring the large blocks of land along the northern end of Montague Rd which are currently used for industrial purposes, and converting these into public parkland and sporting facilities. Sites including Hanson Concrete, Parmalat and I-O Glass are all highly vulnerable to flooding, and are not appropriate for high-density residential or commercial development.
To cater for the green space needs of West End’s rapidly growing population, and to mitigate the negative impacts of flooding, these sites should be restored as public parkland.
This large new riverside park could include dog off-leash areas, a full-size skate park and BMX track, a sports field, a large children’s playground, vegetated nature reserves and outdoor event spaces.
Completing the Kangaroo Point Riverwalk
Completing the missing links of the riverside footpath between Dockside and Mowbray Park is essential to reduce traffic congestion and improve connectivity for the Kangaroo Point Peninsula. There are only a few missing links between existing pathways that have already been completed, and we believe council should allocate the funding to build these sections immediately, rather than waiting years for private developers to do it. The riverwalk should be designed with extra-wide footpaths and clearly delineated separation between pedestrians, slower-moving cyclists, and faster-moving bikes and escooter riders. You can read more about the riverwalk via this link at the section titled ‘Completing the Riverwalk’.
Restore Boggo Road Gaol as a Visual and Performing Arts Hub
Boggo Road Gaol is ideally located along the busway and train lines, and in close proximity to UQ St Lucia, Dutton Park State School and the future Dutton Park State High. This historic site should not be privatised and sold off to developers, but should be restored as a publicly funded music and arts hub, with workshop spaces, studios, rehearsal rooms, exhibition spaces and theatres. Boggo Road could become the south-side sister of the New Farm Powerhouse, celebrating history while providing affordable spaces for artists, innovators and hackers. A heritage museum component and a strong emphasis on history tours and storytelling would allow this precinct to serve as a hub for local history groups and knowledge-keeping.
Separated Bike Lanes along Vulture Street
Vulture St is a key east-west connector across the Gabba Ward, but riding between West End and Woolloongabba is currently quite dangerous. Existing narrow footpaths can no longer safely accommodate rising numbers of cyclists and escooter riders, so it is imperative that council creates safe, separated bike lanes running along Vulture St from Montague Rd, West End to Christie St, South Brisbane. This would provide a direct connection to the Goodwill Bridge and to the new Woolloongabba Bikeway along Stanley Street.
Safer separated bike lanes are also needed along other main roads such as Montague Rd and Gladstone Rd, however we currently consider Vulture St to be the highest priority.
Convert roadway into parkland at southern end of Boundary St
Regardless of whether a new footbridge is delivered between St Lucia and West End, we have an amazing opportunity to create more useable public green space at the southern end of Boundary St by combining under-utilised roadway with the neighbouring block of State-owned land at the corner of Dudley Street. Boundary St could end at the intersection with Glenfield St, and the roadway could be ripped up to create a riverside public park with an area of over 3300m2.
Aboriginal Cultural Centre in Musgrave Park
Local Aboriginal community groups have been advocating for decades to establish a purpose-built cultural centre in Musgrave Park. This project should be designed, led and controlled by First Nations peoples, with funding from all levels of government. Council should play a supporting role in delivering this project, facilitating conversations and providing access to resources and support staff to empower Aboriginal community leaders to deliver this project.
Redevelop Kurilpa Hall and Library as a Multipurpose Community Facility
We support converting the carpark of Kurilpa Library and the adjoining Kurilpa Hall site into a multistorey multipurpose community hub that caters for the community’s changing needs. We believe a redevelopment of this site should respect the heritage and integrity of the historic Kurilpa Library building. A redeveloped community facility would include space for the Australian Pensioners and Superannuants League organisation that currently manages the existing Kurilpa Hall, as well as a wide range of other community groups and projects.
An expanded library would include dedicated meeting rooms, fully accessible toilets and a wider range of resources. Depending on further community consultation, it could be possible to design a dedicated theatre space or concert hall within the facility, but such elements would require careful design and extensive sound-proofing to avoid negative impacts on neighbours. We are calling for multiple rounds of detailed community consultation and an inclusive participatory design process before any changes are made to the existing facility.
Composting and Sustainable Waste Management
The Greens are calling for free green bins for every household, in order to divert organic waste from general landfill. We are also calling for the green bin service to be adapted so it can accept food waste too. Organic waste can be composted and reused for gardens. The gases from composting organic matter can be captured as a source of energy.
We also support establishing more community composting hubs particularly within the inner-city, and are calling for more council funding and support to train apartment block residents how to manage community composting hubs on their own apartment block sites, while also establishing more hubs in public parks alongside community gardens.
We are calling for a vacancy levy on all homes, shops and vacant lots that are left empty for more than six months without a valid reason. A vacancy levy would reduce homelessness, place downward pressure on residential and commercial rents, and help bring life back to struggling shopping precincts. More details about this policy can be found at this link.
Default 40km/h Speed Limit
We support a default speed limit of 40km/h on all streets in the Gabba Ward, with the exception of some sections of Ipswich Rd, Main St, and Shaftson Avenue. I believe that even busy roads like Dornoch Terrace, Montague Rd, Gladstone Rd, River Terrace, Cordelia St, Merivale St, Vulture St and Stanley St should all eventually be reduced to a limit of 40km/h, but that this transition should happen gradually alongside other changes to road design and transport services.
New Pedestrian Crossings
The Greens have called for council to create 250 new pedestrian crossings around the city each year. We have recently secured funding for new traffic lights at the intersection of Victoria St and Montague Rd (near the West End Aldi) and work will be starting soon.
Traffic lights will also be installed along Gladstone Rd near TJ Doyle Memorial Drive to connect the new Dutton Park State High School to the Dutton Park green space.
Looking ahead, we believe that within the Gabba Ward, the highest priority locations for new crossings are:
- Boundary St near Brighton Rd
- Dornoch Terrace-Hampstead Rd intersection – possibly lights, depending on detailed investigation)
- Gloucester St-Stephens Rd intersection
- Leopard St, Kangaroo Point – zebra crossing near Lockerbie St
- Montague Rd – traffic lights near Donkin St
- Montague Rd – traffic lights at/near Ferry Rd
- Multiple locations along Dornoch Terrace - unsignalised zebra crossings
- River Terrace, Kangaroo Point – traffic lights near Bell St, and a new zebra crossing north of Paton St
- Vulture St near Exeter St, West End
- Vulture St near Thomas St and Bunyapa Park
- Wellington Rd – traffic lights near Mowbray Terrace and Toohey St
Safety Upgrades for Existing Pedestrian Crossings
Many pedestrian crossings throughout our city need major safety improvements. We believe the highest priorities for safety upgrades to existing crossing points are:
- Converting the intersection of Hardgrave Rd and Vulture St into a four-way scramble crossing (like the Boundary St-Vulture St intersection)
- Redesigning the zebra crossing on Gladstone Rd near Park Rd West as traffic lights
- Zebra crossing on Park Rd near Merton Rd
- Intersection of Dornoch Terrace, Hardgrave Rd and Ganges St
- Zebra crossing on Hawthorne St near Gibbon St
- Orleigh St near the West End ferry terminal
- Zebra crossing on Montague near Brereton St
If the community is opposed to installing traffic signals, often the best way to improve pedestrian safety at a zebra crossing is to lower speed limits and narrow the road width on the approaches to the crossing by building out the footpaths and/or installing separated bike lanes.
New Public Parks at Gabba Station and Boggo Road
Woolloongabba is under-served by public parkland, but inner-city land is extremely expensive. In the short-term, the most cost-effective and practical pathway to creating new public green space catering for rapid population growth in the 4102 postcode is to ensure that large public parks are included on the publicly owned sites which are being redeveloped for train stations as part of the Cross River Rail project.
Rather than selling off the land above the train station for private highrise development, the State Government should retain ownership and control over these sites and deliver large new green spaces and community facilities. You can read a more detailed vision for the redevelopment of the Gabba Cross River Rail station site at this link.
New Public Park for Highgate Hill/South Brisbane
We support covering over the exposed train line immediately to the north of Gloucester St to create a new public park with an area of 1.1 hectares. This would provide much-needed additional recreational green space for residents living between Annerley Road and Gladstone Rd while also providing additional wildlife habitat and reducing noise pollution and air pollution from the train line. More details at this link.
New Park for Kangaroo Point Peninsula
A new park should be created for the northern end of Kangaroo Point in the vicinity of Lambert St to cater for the rapid population growth in this vicinity. A new riverside park could include a dog off-leash area and other recreational facilities, and could connect to the completed riverwalk leading north to Dockside.
Finding land for this park would involve acquiring privately owned land that would otherwise be redeveloped as highrise, while also narrowing the bitumen roadway and reclaiming road reserve as green space.
Hampstead Common and Implementing the West End Green Space Strategy
The West End Green Space Strategy identifies a long list of opportunities to create additional green spaces throughout the Kurilpa Peninsula, predominantly by converting existing road reserve back into shaded boulevards and pocket parks. We support this strategy, including narrowing Hampstead Road and extending the existing community orchard along the footpaths leading down from the top of Highgate Hill.
Although some of these projects sound costly, they are essential if we are to preserve a high quality of life for current and future Gabba Ward residents. We can afford to deliver all of this if we make property developers pay their share, generate additional revenue from a vacancy levy, stop outsourcing core council services to private contractors who add in fat profit margins, and reduce spending on ineffective and sustainable road-widening projects.
Repurpose Space Under the Story Bridge for Community Purposes
There's a lot of under-utilised space beneath the Story Bridge at Kangaroo Point that can be converted for other uses. Some of this space which is currently used for council carparking could double-up as space for weekend farmers' markets and artisan markets. Some space could also be used for community concerts and movie nights, exercise equipment and perhaps even sporting facilities like cricket nets or basketball hoops. Obviously any redesign of this space should be subject to detailed community consultation, and should remain mindful of the need for off-street parking in the area. I believe council should put funding into a detailed community planning process to give residents and local small businesses control and decision-making power over the long-term future of this space.
Close Grey St to Through-Traffic and Create a New Public Park in South Brisbane
As part of the Brisbane Metro project, BCC and the State Government will be working together to redevelop the Cultural Centre Station and the adjoining Melbourne St-Grey St intersection. I'm calling for serious consideration of the possibility of closing off Grey St to through-traffic, so we can create 5000m2 of additional public green space between QPAC and the South Brisbane train station. This would have a range of positive flow-on impacts, including:
- improved traffic flow at the Peel St-Grey St and Grey St-Vulture St intersections
- giving higher-speed commuter cyclists a safer alternative to riding along the South Bank riverfront
- helping Grey St flourish as a low-speed active transport-focussed environment
You can find out a lot more detail about this proposal at this link.
As mentioned above, our vision for the Gabba Ward is based upon the feedback we receive from residents. If you disagree with some of it, let us know! If there are other projects or ideas that you think should be included in this vision, please write to us! This is an ever-evolving list that will change in response to the needs and priorities of local residents.
At the end of the day, it's not just up to me to articulate what I think should be the future of our community. All of us should get a say and all of us should meaningful control over how our city changes and evolves.
Here’s an important local issue that potentially impacts a lot of apartments in Brisbane in terms of safety, sense of community, insurance premiums and body corporate fees. It’s a bit technical, but hopefully I can keep the explanation straightforward...
1. There are different rules for how apartments should be designed if they are being used as short-term accommodation as opposed to long-term residential. For example, you need more emergency signage and clearer fire exit routes for short-term accom. uses, because short-term tenants won’t know the building as well.
A building that has been designed as standard residential accommodation shouldn’t really be used for short-term rentals. Maintaining this distinction is important in terms of issues like fire safety, security, property wear-and-tear etc.
2. Increasingly in Queensland, we’re seeing more and more apartments (and free standing houses) that have been assessed and approved by council as normal residential homes, and were not designed as hotels/short-term accommodation, which are now being rented out by investors through platforms like Airbnb.
This leads to a wide range of issues for neighbouring apartment residents because, for example, higher-intensity hotel-style usage tends to create more wear and tear on common property like elevators, pools etc, and those maintenance costs are borne by the body corporate (and ultimately the residents).
We’re also seeing situations where apartments in places like South Bank and Kangaroo Point are rented out for disruptive parties every single night of the week, and neighbours can’t do anything about it.
3. It also creates a broader economic problem, because apartments which were approved to house local residents are instead rented out to visitors and tourists, which means local families find it harder to afford a home in the inner-city. So even though the supply of apartments increases, that doesn’t improve affordability for locals because those apartments are all Airbnb-style short-term accommodation.
(A flow-on social impact is that we can’t create the well-connected high-density local communities and break down social isolation, because such a large proportion of homes are just short-term visitors.)
The underlying problem here is that in our economic system, homes are being treated as a commodity to make a profit from, rather than protecting housing as a basic human right.
Investors who rent out entire homes as hotel rooms don’t always care about the impact on neighbours – they just want to make money.
4. But when residents complain to council, and say “Hey, this building was approved as residential but now it’s being rented out as short-term accommodation” it seems Brisbane City Council isn’t taking appropriate action.
In some cases, council takes no action at all. In other cases, BCC investigates and then says “Well even though this building wasn’t designed as short-term accommodation, it was built on land where you are technically allowed to build short-term accommodation, so we’re going to look the other way.” Basically, council knows that some unit owners, developers and property managers are breaking council regulations, but isn’t doing anything about it.
5. What makes this even messier is that most building insurance cover can be voided if a body corporate hasn’t been complying with council rules.
So for example, if a body corporate hasn’t been keeping an area free of flammable debris, and that leads to fire damage, the insurance company might refuse to pay out. Similarly, if a residential building is being illegally rented out as short-term accommodation, and the guests accidentally leave a tap on that leads to other apartments being flooded, the insurance company could have strong legal grounds for refusing to pay out.
So all this adds up to a pretty big issue, where building insurance cover for hundreds of buildings around the state is under question.The action that council needs to take is two-pronged:
- BCC needs to stop issuing development approvals that allow a building to be used for short-term accommodation unless the building has been properly designed to safely accommodate high numbers of short-term visitors.
- BCC needs to fully investigate complaints of unapproved short-term uses, and take enforcement action where investors are running hotel operations in buildings that don’t have any approval as short-term accommodation.
We also need to have a broader community conversation about how much of our neighbourhoods we are happy to see turn into short-term hotel-style accommodation...
Do we want entire suburbs like South Brisbane and Kangaroo Point to be majority short-term visitors where no-one knows one another? Or do we want to strike a better balance where we have enough options for tourists and visitors, but there are still enough longer-term residents to maintain a stronger sense of local community?
I don’t have any concerns about residents who rent out a spare room via Airbnb to subsidise their rent, or about people who temporarily sublease their home while they go on holiday for a few weeks or months.
But that’s very different to a situation where no-one on a low income can afford to live in inner-city suburbs, because all the new investor-owned apartments have been rented out on Airbnb on an ongoing basis.
Here's the text of our first email update to residents concerned about the development application for 94 to 108 Lambert St..
Thanks for showing an interest in the campaign against unsustainable over-development around Kangaroo Point. Feel free to forward this email on to any of your friends and neighbours who might be interested, and tell them they can sign up for local updates via this link.
On Friday morning, I attended a residents meeting to provide an update on the Development Application ('DA') for 94 to 108 Lambert St, which involves three very bulky highrise towers, and fails to complete the adjoining section of riverwalk between Mowbray Park and Dockside.
The buildings are too close together and too close to the property boundaries, creating negative impacts in terms of overshadowing, airflow, and view corridors. And of course the traffic impacts and strain on local infrastructure are also likely to be significant. There’s not enough green space or community facilities on-site, and apartments seem cramped and poorly designed.
In response to submissions from my office and local residents, Brisbane City Council has now sent an information request to the developers raising concerns about a range of issues. If you haven’t seen it yet, you can view the information request via this link. The developer now has a maximum of three months to respond to BCC’s concerns.
It’s particularly important that if some kind of highrise development is approved on this site, the developer is required to complete their section of the riverwalk at the same time. It would be far more costly, difficult and disruptive to get construction equipment down to the riverbank to build the riverside footpath after towers are built and residents have moved in.
It’s crucial to understand that the council has broad discretion as to whether to approve this project, and what changes it can request of the developer. If the mayor really wanted to stop it going ahead altogether, he does have various mechanisms available to do so. He could even, for example, acquire part of the site to create a new public park, which is sorely needed in Kangaroo Point considering the rapid population growth.
Time and again around Brisbane, I’ve seen the LNP-dominated city council approve developments that don’t comply with the Acceptable Outcomes in the City Plan. Unfortunately, simply pointing out to council that developers aren’t following the rules is not enough. At the end of the day, the LNP are primarily concerned about power – and that means votes.
If you want to advocate for council to:
- reject the current development application at 108 Lambert St
- acquire land for more public green space in the area, and
- complete the riverwalk as soon as possible,
the first action you can take right now is to contact the mayor and tell him that if he wants your vote, he needs to reject this DA before the March 2020 council election.
The second action you should take is to forward this message on to as many friends as possible, and ask them to contact the mayor’s office with similar comments.
- Call the mayor’s office on 3403 4400 or email email@example.com
- Give a full name and address
- Tell the mayor’s staff that you will be advising all your friends and family members not to vote for the LNP unless he rejects this development application before the March 2020 council election
- Ask your neighbours to do the same.
I'm optimistic that if we act collectively as a community we can apply enough pressure to get a significantly better design outcome on this site, and hopefully even build support for more public green space and investment in local infrastructure within the surrounding neighbourhood.
I’ll be sure to keep you in the loop if I hear any updates from council.
I originally wrote this article for the Courier Mail's 'Future Brisbane' series in September, 2017, but since they put it behind a paywall, I thought I'd repost it here so everyone can read it.
BRISBANE residents have lost control over how our neighbourhoods evolve and develop. Planning decisions about where to increase density are driven primarily by corporate profit and short-term vote-chasing, rather than long-term social needs and sustainable planning principles.
On current trajectories, future Brisbane may well be a divided city. The wealthy will enjoy medium-density, mixed-use neighbourhoods in close proximity to public transport, job opportunities and good schools, while the poor are banished to sprawling outer-suburban fringes.
Thousands of middle-class residents will be crowded into poorly-designed highrises with very low ratios of green space per person, working 60-hour weeks just to cover the mortgage.
Rising sea levels and heavier rains will flood low-lying neighbourhoods more often, and skyrocketing inner-city land values will mean governments never have enough money to acquire land for new parks, drainage infrastructure and community facilities.
The word “affordability” has been largely absent from Future Brisbane conversations. But neglecting to discuss the issue doesn’t change the fact that right now, tens of thousands of Brisbanites are homeless. Public housing waiting lists are so long that residents are advised not to bother applying unless they qualify as “very high needs”.
Suburbs like West End and New Farm, which once derived their special character in part from the fact that rich and poor residents lived in close proximity, are becoming glossy brochure parodies of their former selves.
Increasing the supply of apartments hasn’t substantially improved affordability for first-homebuyers, because wealthy investors consistently outbid them.
In suburbs like South Brisbane, we’re now seeing some investors choose to leave apartments empty rather than rent them out cheaply. Others are becoming hotel managers via websites like AirBnB, prioritising short-term visitors over longer-term local tenants.
In short, the private market is failing to deliver genuinely affordable housing.
But there are practical alternatives. Many European cities have strengthened renters’ rights and invested heavily in public housing to preserve the vibrant inner-city creative neighbourhoods that attract tourists and improve urban amenity.
Brisbane City Council and the Queensland Government can and should work together to fund and construct high-quality medium-density public housing in close proximity to public transport and job opportunities. And I don’t just mean 140 dwellings per year like the State Government is currently proposing for Brisbane. I mean thousands of dwellings.
Vulnerable residents can be dispersed throughout the city rather than concentrated together, improving social mobility and strengthening relationships between different demographics and sub-cultures. Government-led housing projects can include sustainable design features like greywater recycling and onsite composting that would rarely be delivered by the private sector. Yes, it will be expensive. But it’s still cheaper than leaving people homeless.
Realistically, a drastic increase in the construction of public housing is the only way we’ll be able to address the housing affordability crisis without significantly lowering property values of existing owner-occupiers.
But the journey towards a fairer, more sustainable city need not stop there. With more investment into pollution control and revegetation, many of the creeks feeding into the Brisbane River can be restored so that once again they are clean enough to swim in (a few nets to keep out bullsharks wouldn’t go astray).
A new Aboriginal cultural centre in Musgrave Park would show genuine respect for the rightful owners of this city.
Inner-city golf courses can be repurposed as fruit orchards, sports fields, nature reserves, and even tiny house eco-villages.
Roads will be narrowed, with general traffic lanes reclaimed for bus lanes, separated bike lanes and broader tree-lined footpaths.
Repair cafes, tool libraries and community composting programs will help us shift towards a less wasteful, less consumerist culture.
Sewerage will become a resource – a source of both bioenergy and fertiliser.
Suburbia’s sprawling backyards will be filled with either granny flats or veggie patches, and community gardens will proliferate in under-used parklands and road verges.
Street artists will replace grey concrete with vivid murals that inspire and engage both locals and visitors.
And of course, we will abandon cringeworthy tags like ‘Brisvegas’ and ‘new world city’ in favour of a civic identity that respects and learns from its history, and embraces progress without becoming a soulless, gaudy, cookie-cutter copy of every other big new city around the world.
But perhaps most importantly, a future Brisbane can and should give ordinary residents more input and control over urban planning.
To meet tomorrow’s challenges, everyone will need to be given a say, not just at election time, but through ongoing participatory democratic processes which ensure that the big decisions that shape our city benefit all of us, and not just a privileged minority.
As well as objecting to over-the-top developments, I wanted to highlight positive examples.
The projects featured below certainly aren’t perfect, but they do include elements that we can learn from. My deeper concerns about over-development are not just about specific design features in individual buildings, but the major shortfall of public infrastructure and services and the unfair and unsustainable economics of our whole housing system.Read more
Local residents will gather in Kurilpa Point Park on Saturday morning to protest the installation of hostile landscaping under the Kurilpa Bridge, calling for stronger renters rights and more investment in public housing.
The state government is spending $120 000 installing boulders under the Kurilpa Bridge near GOMA to deter homeless people from sleeping there, despite objections from the local councillor.
Last week, Gabba Ward Councillor Jonathan Sri organised a group of activists to illegally dismantle the temporary fencing.
"Moving homeless people on from one public space to another just causes more problems," Councillor Sri says. "The solution is to strengthen renters rights and build more public housing.
“They must have rocks in their head if they think putting boulders under the bridge is going to fix anything.”
“Nowhere is safe to sleep when you’re homeless,” Councillor Sri says. “But people were gathering under the bridge because it was sheltered from the rain and felt safer than other alternatives. It makes me so sad that the government is fencing people out instead of building more homes for them.”
“The Queensland Government is only investing an average of $120 million per year in public housing. That’s the same amount that they give in annual prize money to the racing industry.”
“The current proposal to build 500 dwellings per year across the entire state is woefully insufficient when around 30 000 people are languishing on the public housing waiting list right now,” Councillor Sri said.
The Australian Homelessness Monitor Report 2018 shows that homelessness in Brisbane has risen by 32% since 2011 (source: page 9 of the report)
“Since 2011, we saw big increases in rents at the bottom end of the market, forcing lots of people onto the street. The new privately owned highrise apartments are much more expensive to rent, so West End’s construction boom has had significant negative side-effects. Queensland really needs stronger rules against excessive rent increases.”
“Sometimes the government claims it has offered housing to rough sleepers, but this is often just in overpriced short-term boarding houses or motels, because there’s not enough public housing. It’s not a long-term solution.”
“If they had actually housed all the rough sleepers around Kurilpa Point, why do they need to spend so much money keeping homeless people away from this bridge?”
Max Chandler-Mather, Greens candidate for Griffith, said it was clear the only solution was a massive investment in social housing. “The Australian Greens want to invest in building 500,000 beautifully designed social homes over 15 years and guarantee everyone access to a good home. This would be the biggest social reform since Medicare.”
“The private housing market is destroying people’s lives and it’s madness that we are leaving millions of people to suffer while banks and property developers rake in billions in profits. Rather than build fences, Labor should commit to the sort of social housing construction boom that transformed Australian society in the 1950s and continue to benefit countries like Austria and the Netherlands.”
The rally will take place at 9am on Saturday, 17 November at the southern end of the Kurilpa Footbridge, next to GOMA.
Media enquiries: 0488 199 015
The following open letter was sent on 8 November, 2018 to Councillor Schrinner (Chair of Public and Active Transport), Councillor Bourke (Chair of City Planning) and Councillor Cooper (Chair of Infrastructure).
Although Ipswich Road carries high volumes of traffic, we cannot continue to widen this corridor in the future, and must instead focus on encouraging more residents to use active and public transport rather than driving.
Dear Councillors Schrinner, Cooper and Bourke,
I write to share with you my vision for the future of Ipswich Rd, and to ask you to take the necessary steps within each of your portfolios to ensure that no further widening of this corridor occurs. As you know, Ipswich Road is congested during peak periods, but flows relatively freely at other times of the day. Ipswich Road has been widened repeatedly in the past, and car-centric development over the past few decades has turned the corridor into a hostile and inhospitable area for pedestrians. The combined impact of Ipswich Rd and the Pacific Motorway has been to carve up Woolloongabba, fragmenting local neighbourhoods and cutting residents off from easy access to local businesses. This results in more Woolloongabba residents driving for local trips to schools and shops rather than using active transport, thus exacerbating traffic congestion.
Council’s current plans for Ipswich Road are extremely self-contradictory and inconsistent. On the one hand, land use zoning and related neighbourhood planning strategies seek to create a mixed-used neighbourhood along the corridor, with ground-level retail and commercial activation accompanied by high-density residential development where the majority of residents walk, ride or catch public transport as their main ways of getting around. On the other hand, council’s transport network planning team continue to insist on land resumptions to add car lanes and widen the corridor, accompanied by high-speed car-friendly road rules. It is very difficult to created vibrant activated streetscapes when cars and trucks are roaring past at 60km/h.
I would like to see Ipswich Road shift away from being so focussed on private motor vehicle transport, with a clear agreement between residents and council that no further widening of the corridor will occur through Woolloongabba, Annerley or Moorooka.
While I am not challenging the role of Ipswich Road as a major transport corridor, I am suggesting it would be better to transition this corridor to focus more heavily on active transport and public transport, with:
- 40km/h speed limits near sensitive uses such as schools, hospitals, ground-level retail and high-density residential
- intersection timings that give greater priority to pedestrians
- shorter distances between pedestrian crossing points
- pedestrian-priority crossings along side-streets connecting to Ipswich Rd
- broad, shaded leafy footpaths
- safe, separated bike lanes, and
- higher-frequency public transport services support by dedicated bus lanes and/or peak-hour transit lanes.
The council’s recent response to a development application for a Bunnings at 73 Ipswich Road (DA A004789857) has raised concerns that rather than supporting the necessary shift towards public and active transport, council is still requiring individual developers to widen sections of the corridor as part of the DA approval. The plans submitted by the developer (apparently in response to council’s request) suggest that Ipswich Rd would become 8 lanes wide, with a ninth turning lane into the Bunnings site.
This is a deeply flawed approach which is not supported by modern principles of sustainable transport planning. As you know, there is no scope to widen the Main St corridor or the Story Bridge further north in Kangaroo Point. Nor would it be financially or politically viable to widen connecting east-west corridors like Vulture St and Stanley Street. So even if short stretches of Ipswich Rd could have lanes added as part of individual DAs, overall the corridor has reached its limits, and widening short segments will simply exacerbate existing traffic bottlenecks rather than solving congestion.
While Ipswich Road is an important connector into the CBD and the inner-south side, it also carries significant volumes of inter-suburban traffic, with people using it to access shopping precincts, industrial areas, hospitals, schools, green spaces, community facilities and different residential neighbourhoods. The 100 bus route is well used, but turns off this corridor when it reaches the Gabba, meaning there is no high-frequency connection from Annerley and Woolloongabba up to Kangaroo Point and Fortitude Valley. I understand council is currently considering introducing a new high frequency CityGlider service to run north-south from Royal Brisbane Hospital and Fortitude Valley over the Story Bridge and down Ipswich Road to Moorooka train station. I support this proposal and believe it could be made much more efficient by designating one lane of Ipswich Rd as a T3 lane with in-lane bus stops, ensuring a high-frequency reliable public transport service that encourages people to use the bus rather than driving. A BRT (bus rapid transit) service along Ipswich Rd, coupled with lower speed limits, bike lanes, street trees and better pedestrian crossings, would transform Ipswich Rd into an active travel corridor and help catalyse new development to revitalise the area.
I would like a response from each of you to understand whether your administration supports this overall vision, or whether you do intend to widen Ipswich Road further in the future.
More urgently, I would like you to place a halt on any plans to widen Ipswich Road until further community conversations have been held about the future of this corridor. Please act immediately to prevent any development of 73 Ipswich Rd which would encourage more vehicles to drive to this site, and to ensure that no lanes will be added to this stretch of Ipswich Road.
LATEST UPDATE: Here's an email I sent out after our community meeting on Saturday, 22 September. Further below, you can find a longer write-up about the hotel...
I'm sending this to everyone who has expressed concerns about over-development in the Gabba Ward or a specific interest in the future of the Broadway Hotel at Woolloongabba.
Thank you so much to everybody who came along to our public meeting about the hotel on Saturday afternoon. It was great to see so much enthusiasm and support for preserving the hotel, with people travelling from as far away as Ipswich and the Sunshine Coast to be part of the discussion.
At the meeting, there was extremely strong support for the hotel site being acquired by council or the State Government so that it could remain in public hands, with only a couple of people believing the hotel should remain in private ownership.
There was also strong agreement that profit-driven highrise development has gotten out of hand in Brisbane, and that all levels of government need to do more to provide public green space and community infrastructure to cater for our growing population. Most attendees agreed that even a 20-storey tower to the rear of the Broadway Hotel site would be too tall and would undermine the heritage values of the old pub.
The community was much more divided as to whether the hotel needed to be rebuilt exactly in accordance with its original design, with some people arguing that the hotel’s internal features are just as important in terms of heritage as the external façade, while other residents noted that although the insides of the restored hotel should remain true to the style and theme of the original building, some flexibility is necessary in order to facilitate disability access and ensure the layout of the hotel rooms best accommodates future community uses. This is a tricky question that we should all have further discussions about among our friends and family. How closely does the design of the restored hotel need to match the original building?
Another interesting suggestion to come out of the meeting was that once the site comes back into public ownership, it might be possible to organise volunteers and in-kind support from industry professionals to rebuild the heritage hotel for a much cheaper price than it would cost if left up to private contractors. This idea would require further exploration down the line, but there are plenty of successful examples of this from cities around the world.
It was a useful first meeting to bring people together and share information. But this is only the start of the struggle...
Call key decision-makers
Right now, we need as many people as possible to call on both Lord Mayor Graham Quirk (Ph 3403 4400, email firstname.lastname@example.org) and Deputy Premier Jackie Trad (Ph 3724 9100, email email@example.com) to buy the Broadway Hotel and rebuild it for public use. If you haven’t already contacted these two decision-makers, please take a moment to do so.
There are a few petitions about the hotel floating around, but our council epetition is specifically calling for Brisbane City Council to buy the site, so it would be useful to get as many signatures on it as possible. Please sign hereand encourage your friends and neighbours to do the same.
Valuing the land
Given that we want the council and State Government to buy this site, we need a clearer estimate of the property’s current value. We’ve asked a few property industry people for their thoughts, but if anyone with experience in land valuation can spend some time coming up with a more accurate value for the 93 Logan Rd site in its current state (keeping in mind the requirement to rebuild the hotel and the zoning of 20 storeys) as well as the neighbouring sites at 44 Balaclava St and 85 Logan Rd, we would love to hear from you. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Expert design panel
A couple of architects, landscape architects and other design professionals have expressed interest in creating concept plans for redeveloping the Broadway site as a community facility and public park. If you have any expertise in this area and would like to be involved, please send me an email and we’ll link you in with the group. Hopefully we can come up with a design proposal that’s practically feasible but can also inspire more people to get excited about possibilities for this site.
Down the track, we might look at broadening this into a collaborative community design process, but we don’t want to spend too much time and energy on that until we have a firmer commitment that council and the State Government are going to put up the money to buy the site.
Community campaign meeting
With council and State Government elections on the horizon in 2020, now is a good time to start building political pressure for this site to be acquired and brought back into public ownership. For that to happen, we’ll need a robust community campaign spearheaded by residents to build pressure on city councillors and State MPs across the city.
We’re holding a campaign organising meeting at my office at 4pm on the afternoon of Saturday, 6 October (office address is 2/63 Annerley Rd, Woolloongabba, and you can access the meeting room via the rear entry by going through the carpark off Crown Street). This meeting is specifically for people who might want to volunteer a bit of time and energy fighting for the restoration of the Broadway Hotel.
Even if you can only spare a couple of hours a week, please come along to this meeting and we can start planning further actions to save this historic site. Please RSVP to email@example.com to let us know if you’re coming.
If you can’t make this particular meeting but would still like to be actively involved in helping organise the campaign, please let us know and we’ll keep you in the loop.
The fight to rebuild the Broadway and repurpose this site for public use is a crucial part of the broader struggle to preserve heritage and protect against over-development across South-East Queensland. It's also an amazing opportunity to secure more public green space, community facilities and perhaps even a small component of affordable housing or crisis accommodation for people fleeing domestic violence. The more people who get involved in this campaign, the better our chances are of success. But if we don’t stand up to protect Brisbane’s unique character and identity, we risk losing it forever.
Feel free to forward this email to anyone else who might be interested, and hopefully we’ll see you at the campaign organising meeting on Saturday, 6 October.
Where to Next?
Lots of residents have been asking what’s going to happen to the Broadway Hotel after the most recent fire. Both the State Government and Brisbane City Council have said they want the hotel restored, but that seems unlikely if it’s left up to the private sector.
I won’t run through the full, fascinating history of this hotel, but the most relevant immediate background context is that it was functioning as a bar and entertainment venue right up until 2010, when a fire caused some significant internal damage, but no major structural damage.
The current owner of the hotel site at 93 Logan Rd and the neighbouring vacant office building at 44 Balaclava Street is Malcolm Nyst, who currently owns or part-owns several other historic buildings around Queensland including the Fox Hotel on Melbourne St in South Brisbane. We understand Mr Nyst bought the hotel site (93 Logan Rd) for $700 000 in January 1997 from Quetel Pty Ltd but we haven’t been able to confirm that. The neighbouring site at 85 Logan Rd (which is currently used as an impound lot for towed cars) is currently owned by Mr and Mrs Economidis.
Photos from post-fire inspections in 2010, along with statements from a heritage restoration architect who worked on the hotel, confirm that the building was still very much salvageable. It probably would have cost less than $1 million to restore.
There have been more small fires in the building in recent years, including one on 20 May, 2017. You can read the fire inspection reports here and here. There were local anecdotal reports of another small fire in October 2017.
Image 1: The Broadway Hotel after the 2010 Fire; Image 2: The Broadway Hotel in August 2018
The hotel is protected on both Brisbane City Council’s local heritage register, and on the State Government’s State Heritage Register. This means both levels of government have powers and responsibilities to ensure the historic buildings are protected and maintained, and that both levels of government have to give approval for any new development affecting the site.
The heritage listing includes the main three-storey hotel building, but also the various one-storey and two-storey wings/ancillary buildings at the back and sides. Some of these ancillary buildings are also quite hold and carry a lot of heritage value in and of themselves. There’s even a World War 2 air raid shelter at the back of the property. You can read the State Heritage Register listing at this link.
World War 2 Air Raid Shelter
Highrise Development Plans
Over the last few years, Seb Monsour of Majella Properties was in negotiation with Mr Nyst and Mr and Mrs Economidis to buy the hotel site at 93 Logan Rd as well as the neighbouring properties (85 Logan Rd and 44 Balaclava St), subject to approval of a development application. This is not an uncommon practice for some developers. They get the written consent of the existing landowners to lodge a development application for a site, then once the development is approved, it becomes a lot easier for the developer to get loans from a bank to buy the land and finance the development.
Majella lodged a development application in March 2017 to build a 27-storey highrise tower on the hotel site (including 85 Logan and 44 Balaclava). The proposal included 262 residential apartments, 379 carparks and just under 5300m2 of commercial space. You can view all the plans at this link. The plans proposed to demolish the smaller buildings that are part of the hotel (some of which have significant heritage value), while preserving and restoring the main three-storey structure (the most iconic part of the hotel) at the front. From the moment my office became aware of the plans, we were pushing strongly for them to be rejected.
The site was zoned for 20 storeys, but heritage considerations can override the zoning, and there is a strong argument to be made that locating a 20-storey building so close to the hotel (and looming over it) would have undermined its heritage values. There was no guarantee that a 20-storey tower immediately behind the hotel would have been approved by both BCC and the State Government – a lot depended on the subjective discretionary judgement of the heritage experts within the State Government’s State Assessment and Referral Agency (SARA).
Even though the current LNP-dominated city council is very pro-highrise, it seemed unlikely to me that the 27-storey development application would have been approved by council, particularly considering that it required demolition of the ancillary wings of the hotel.
Tower with old hotel in foreground
On 9 June 2017, BCC issued an information request to the developer, raising concerns about the height and bulk of the tower, the insufficient setbacks (the space between buildings), the details of the proposed restoration of the main hotel building and a number of smaller issues. You can read the information request at this link. Disappointingly, although council was concerned about a 27-storey building, the council did not necessarily object to a 20-storey tower on the site behind the hotel.
Around June/July 2017, the developer applied to the State Government for approval for emergency demolition of several of the ancillary buildings on the basis that the small fire in May 2017 had made them unsafe and unsalvageable, and that urgent demolition was necessary. We understand that the State Government approved this partial demolition of the hotel, but it never happened.
In September 2017, it appears that the State Government approved Majella’s highrise development plans (including the demolition of the one and two-storey wings of the hotel). This was a disappointing and surprising move by the State Government, but it did not necessarily mean the city council would definitely approve the new tower. It seems SARA had no concerns about the loss of the one and two-storey wings of the hotel or the fact that a 27-storey tower would be looming over the old building. Meanwhile, the height concerns and other design issues raised by the council’s request for information were still an outstanding question mark.
Over the next few months, the developer requested multiple time extensions to respond to the council’s information request from 9 June, 2017. This suggests to me that Majella was not sure how to proceed and did not consider that the project would be commercially viable if council insisted on the 20-storey height limit. Presumably, Majella had calculated that it could afford to retain and restore the main hotel building (demolishing the secondary wings) only if it was able to build up to 27 storeys, but without the 7 extra storeys, it wasn’t profitable enough.
On 4 June, 2018, Seb Monsour (CEO of Majella) wrote to council requesting another three-month time extension. On 8 June, the council replied and gave Majella an extension for just one month, so a response was due from the developer on 9 July, 2018.
On 22 June, news broke that Seb Monsour had been charged by police for $5 million of investment fraud. The legal proceedings regarding these charges are ongoing and probably won’t be resolved for some time.
On 10 July, 2018, Seb Monsour wrote to Brisbane City Council and formally withdrew his development application.
Broadway demolition plan
On the night of Saturday, 1 September 2018, another large fire engulfed the main three-storey hotel building. Firefighters were called at 12:40am, suggesting the fire had started just after midnight.
Witnesses reported noisy explosions during the blaze.
I still haven’t seen any fire inspection reports, but it seems pretty unlikely that a definitive cause will be identified. As usual, the fire will probably just be blamed on squatters.
We don’t yet know exactly what condition the hotel is now in, although the damage looks pretty bad.
I’ve heard through the grapevine that structural engineers haven’t yet inspected the property properly because they don’t believe it’s safe to go in.
Was the Hotel Properly Maintained?
It’s pretty obvious that the hotel was not being maintained and secured to a standard appropriate for a State Heritage-listed building.
I won’t go into all the details, but it did seem like the hotel was being allowed to deteriorate. Photos taken inside the hotel in August 2018 show that a large amount of flammable debris had been allowed to build up inside the building. When these photos are compared to photos taken immediately after the 2010 fire, it’s obvious that the building was not being kept clean and secure. A lot of damage occurred after the 2010 fire rather than during the 2010 fire.
Major holes and leaks in the roof went unrepaired, and water damage was spreading throughout the building.
One photo from February 2015 even shows that old gas canisters had been left in the historic World War 2 air raid shelter at the back of the property. The presence of gas canisters on site might explain the explosions reported on the night of 1 September, 2018.
Our office regularly reported our concerns about the hotel to Brisbane City Council, as did many other residents. It seems that BCC and the State Government’s Department of Environment and Heritage Protection both inspected the property on multiple occasions, but only asked for minor security enhancements, such as boarding up doors and windows and erecting more fencing. Neither level of government issued any fines to the owner for failing to secure the property, or for failing to clean up the flammable debris inside the building.
Regardless of the cause of the fire, it seems obvious to me that the building was not being maintained in such a way as to minimise the risk of fire damage. Even cheap and simple steps like cleaning up old mattresses and piles of rubbish were not taken.
On one occasion, when I raised my concerns about the building directly with Seb Monsour, he said that because he wasn’t technically the owner (which is true), it wasn’t his responsibility to secure and maintain the building. Make of that what you will.
Ultimately, both levels of government failed to act to protect the building. In some other jurisdictions, if an owner of a historic building fails to maintain it, the government will go and make the repairs itself, and then bill the owner for the costs, but that doesn’t happen in Queensland. In this case, the State Government didn’t even issue simple fines to the owner, but seemed to accept that the steps the owner took to secure the property were sufficient.
Until someone produces some structural engineering reports, it’s an open question as to whether the building can be saved and restored. Deputy Premier Trad has said publicly that if the fire-damaged structure has to be torn down for safety reasons, it should be rebuilt in a manner identical to the original design.
In fact, if the hotel was renovated or completely rebuilt, new building regulations and disability access requirements would mean that some pretty major changes would have to be made to the internal layout and design of the building compared to the original design.
My main concern is that now the burnt out hotel is just going to sit there for another ten or twenty years.
It’s all well and good for council and the State Government to insist that the hotel should be rebuilt, but this ignores the commercial realities of the private property industry.
How Much is the Site Worth?
The site at 93 Logan Rd is a bit under 2200m2 and is zoned for 20 storeys. This is an usual site, and I’m definitely not a property valuer, but depending on market conditions, an empty block of land of that size in Woolloongabba might sell for anywhere between $3 and $8 million. If you sold it as a package with the neighbouring lots at 44 Balaclava St and 85 Logan Rd (taking the total site area up to around 3300m2) or you had an existing development approval for highrises, you could probably get even more for it.
But with a strict requirement to restore or rebuild the old hotel, which has a footprint of almost 900m2, the land is substantially less valuable and commercially attractive. You have to factor in the cost of building the old hotel (which local architects and developers tell me would probably be around $3 million) plus you have a significantly reduced development footprint.
The hotel business is risky at the best of times. And there’s already an oversupply in Woolloongabba of commercial space. Around the 4102 postcode, a lot of properties that have been fitted out as retail stores, offices, restaurants or bars are sitting empty at the moment. Even Majella’s development proposal did not actually include preserving the majority of the three-storey hotel building as a hotel, and instead contemplated putting the restored building to other uses.
When I asked one local developer how much he thought the site was worth if it included a strict requirement to rebuild the Broadway, he said it was almost worthless. Under current market conditions, it simply isn’t financially profitable to redevelop this site. That means the current owner will struggle to find a buyer, and no profit-focussed developer is going to want to touch it.
As someone who watches the trajectories of the Brisbane development industry pretty closely, and is well aware of how many developers are currently postponing or pulling out of other apartment development projects around Woolloongabba, I think it is very unlikely that anyone is going to want to lodge a new development application for this property any time in the next five years at least.
A recurring problem
Anyone who owns a heritage-listed property will confirm that maintaining them can be very expensive. Even when they haven’t been damaged by fire, heritage buildings can be a big financial burden. As a result, it’s quite common for old buildings to be left to deteriorate, or to mysteriously catch fire. A similar fate looks likely for another State Heritage-listed building in Kangaroo Point, known locally as Lamb House, which is sitting empty with big holes in the roof, and slowly falling apart.
Leaving historically significant buildings in private ownership is a dicey gamble, particularly in the inner-city. The owners have a lot of compelling financial motivations not to look after a building, because the land is usually worth more without the building on it.
That’s why it’s particularly important that when a heritage-listed building does fall down, or burn down or become infested with termites, strict limitations must be placed on how the site is redeveloped, to avoid creating an incentive for other property owners to neglect their buildings in the same way. If a hotel like the Broadway burns down, and a current or future owner is allowed to build a highrise on the site, the government is essentially rewarding and endorsing the owner’s neglect. So limiting development as a protective deterrent for other heritage sites makes a lot of sense. But it also makes private development less commercially viable.
It’s time to buy back the Broadway
The BCC and the State Government have backed themselves into a bit of a corner. Both levels of government share responsibility for the owner's failure to protect and maintain the hotel. And both levels of government have said they'd like to see the hotel restored. But it is not commercially profitable for private sector developers to do this, and that's not likely to change anytime soon.
If the hotel site remains in private ownership, the government can either allow a developer to knock down the fire-damaged hotel and build 20 storey highrises on the entire site (which I and most residents definitely don't support), or else the abandoned hotel is likely to just sit there for years and years, because private developers won't go near it.
Right now in Woolloongabba, there is an extreme shortage of useable public green space and community facilities. Local halls for hire are regularly booked out, and local community organisations are struggling to find affordable spaces to operate out of. Musicians and artists can’t find affordable spaces to rehearse and perform, and the local live music scene is vulnerable as a result of this. There’s a growing need in this part of the 4102 postcode for a new community centre, and for a range of other support services. The thousands of new apartment residents need spaces for recreation and connecting with their neighbours. They don’t have backyards of their own, so public parks are becoming particularly important.
The Broadway Hotel site is the perfect opportunity to create a new public park with a multipurpose community centre in the middle of it. It’s on a main transport corridor with good street frontages, and would link well to the existing chain of green spaces that connect to the Norman Creek corridor. All the sites around it are zoned for high-density development, so long-term, there are going to be a lot more people in this neighbourhood who are craving green space and community facilities.
Immediately adjacent to the hotel site is a council-owned carpark, which forms part of the road reserve. This under-used patch of bitumen could be combined with 93 Logan Rd (and possibly also 44 Balaclava St and 85 Logan Rd) to create a public park with an area of a couple thousand square metres. With a bit of creative design thinking, part of the site could also be used to build some government-owned public housing or crisis accommodation for people who are struggling to afford homes in the private sector.
I believe the State Government and Brisbane City Council should buy the Broadway Hotel site and bring it back into public ownership and control. There are a range of public uses to which the land could be put, but if we leave it up to the private sector, it’s just going to sit vacant and deteriorate further.
Ideally, the existing hotel could be restored and rebuilt as a community centre and live music venue, or a new community centre that replicates some of the quirky character of the old hotel could take its place. The current owner might not be willing to sell, but the State Government has the power to compulsorily acquire it. Given the site’s historical significance, and the fact that the building has not been properly protected while it remained in private ownership, I think this would be a fair and reasonable step.
It’s time to buy back the Broadway.
If you agree, please take a moment to email Lord Mayor Graham Quirk at firstname.lastname@example.org and the South Brisbane Member of Parliament, Jackie Trad (who is also the State Government’s Deputy Premier and Treasurer) at email@example.com and call on both of them to buy the Broadway Hotel and dedicate the site towards community purposes rather than private highrise development.
A development application has been lodged for the site at 107 to 117 Jane St, West End, directly opposite Davies Park.
In some respects, this proposal actually achieves reasonably good outcomes from an architectural perspective, and is better designed than many of the highrises we've seen popping up around Brisbane.
My core concerns are that the building will cast long shadows on the park and particularly on Jane St Community Garden. I'm also concerned that building an additional 184 carparking spaces on Jane St will lead to further traffic congestion in this area.
The two proposed towers are 12 storey buildings, but some of the levels are actually twice the height of a normal residential storey. There's also substantial built structures on the roofs, meaning that the true height and the shadows cast by these buildings will be more like 15 or 16-storey towers.
I encourage residents to put in a submission raising concerns about the traffic impacts and overshadowing. Personally I don't object to the development altogether, but I'm concerned that the height and the amount of carparking is a bit excessive.
You can view the plans at this link.
You can make a submission via this link.
Because this is being treated as a code assessable development application, there will be no public notification, and council will make a decision relatively quickly unless there is strong feedback from the community.