Cairns hotel reveals plans for $60m arts centre
THE owners of the Shangri-La Hotel have plans to add a performing arts centre to their waterfront site, giving Cairns a facility it has been trying and failing to build for nearly two decades.
The Cairns Post understands Shangri-La has been planning the $60 million project since April, but it hinges on a funding deal with the Commonwealth, State Government and Cairns Regional Council.
Shangri-La general manager George Wee said recent announcements about direct flights to China and the G20 summit meant the time had arrived to expand.
"It could be a real cornerstone of the CBD revitalisation," Mr Wee said of the performing arts centre.
"The location is a winner, it brings buzz back to the CBD and it delivers a facility that the community needs.
"A key part of what we’re about is fitting in with the local community."
Designs are only in the early stages, but the company’s preferred proposal includes an 1100-seat theatre at the northern end of The Pier complex, currently used as parking space. Mr Wee said Shangri-La would need to secure the partnership with governments soon or be forced to consider interest from other private companies that want to move into the complex.
If negotiations with governments proceed, Mr Wee said the facility could be finished in time for the G20 finance ministers meeting in 2014 and would coincide with an upgrade of the hotel and The Pier shopping complex.
Shangri-La’s involvement in the project means the three levels of government would need to contribute significantly less than what they pledged to the failed waterfront entertainment precinct.
"It’s the sort of public-private partnership that we’ve said all along is critical to this project," Cairns MP Gavin King said.
"The appetite for private sector investment in Cairns is very low right now, so this is a rare opportunity."
Mr King has briefed Premier Campbell Newman on the plans, and the State Government’s contribution would likely be the port-owned land the hotel sits on.
"It’s ideal because it leaves those other sites free for when the time is right," Mr King said, referring to two other CBD blocks of land that the council is keen on using for a performing arts complex.
Mayor Bob Manning confirmed the Cairns Entertainment Precinct remains suspended, and the council was "exploring and considering other options".
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Vision: Irene Van Schijndel and Sam Dunstone enjoy a drink yesterday at Pier Point.