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Festival Centre plaza's future a mystery

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The Liberal Party says it will abide by any contract to redevelop the Festival Centre Plaza if the State Government signs one with Walker Corporation within the next five weeks, despite yesterday releasing its own vision to overhaul the aging public space.

Leader of the Opposition Steven Marshall told InDaily this morning it would be too difficult to unwind any contracts the State Government might sign before it goes into the pre-election caretaker mode, such as with developer Lang Walker who has submitted a proposal to redevelop the site.

The comment comes as Premier Jay Weatherill fueled confusion about the Walker proposal, promising that the Government would not build a multi-storey office block on the plaza.

“If the Government does a deal with Walker Corp before they go into caretaker mode then we will of course honour that agreement,” Marshall told InDaily.

“[We have] no desire in any way shape or form to move away from contracts that the Government has already created, expectations that the Government has already created in the business community.

“But the Government has been talking about this for years, there hasn’t been sufficient progress, and we needed to clarify our position in the lead up to the election.”

Walker Corp was selected by the Government in 2012 to provide plans for a revamp of the Festival Plaza and the car park underneath it. The Government has been considering Walker’s submission ever since.

This morning both Marshall and Premier Jay Weatherill ruled out a commercial office block on the Festival Plaza.

Walker’s submission – currently confidential – includes an office block, The Advertiser has reported. That stacks up with the Festival Centre’s own redevelopment plans released in 2011 which envisaged a privately-operated commercial building on the northern side of the Plaza.

Marshall said the plaza’s redevelopment would be viable even without an office block. He said he would hand control of the plaza’s car park to the Festival Centre, which would allow the centre to generate revenue and attract financing for the redevelopment.

“Carparks are a valuable income stream. With the redevelopment of the Adelaide Oval and the need for additional carparks in that region there is no reason to suggest the Adelaide Festival Centre Trust wouldn’t be able to get finance to redevelop the carpark, create an ongoing income stream for themselves.”

In an apparent sign of its intentions, the State Government rezoned the Festival Plaza to significantly increase height limits making a large, multi-storey development possible.

At the time Planning Minister John Rau said the rezoning was needed because “At the moment, the present plans do not enable a number of the developments that we think would be appropriate to occur,” The Advertiser reported.

But on ABC Radio this morning Weatherill ruled out a large commercial office block on the site.

“We won’t be having a 13 storey building on the plaza area,” he said.

“We can rule that out straight away but we are entertaining a proposition that we went out to tender for which is essentially a car park and associated with the car park we do think we can do something exciting with the plaza in a way that does create some of the excitement that we’ve seen in Melbourne with a Federation Square style development.”

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