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Planner backs Riverbank hotel concept

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Australia’s just-crowned ‘best planner’ has thrown his support behind Martin Hamilton-Smith’s idea for an six-star hotel with an Aboriginal theme on the banks of the River Torrens.

Andrew ‘Sandy’ Rix, who last night was declared “Australian Planner of the Year” by the Planning Institute, said a luxury hotel built over the railyards between the new Royal Adelaide Hospital and Morphett Street Bridge would help attract high-end tourists and investors to Adelaide.

Rix, who has overseen the Riverbank precinct for Renewal SA, said a hotel would rejuvenate a wasted area.

“I think we need to strike a balance between the riverbank being a park land … with getting more people there on a very regular, daily basis,” he said.

“I think it’d be a beautiful spot for some sort of quality hotel. It could be on land at the moment that’s sort of a wasteland.”

Hamilton-Smith, the shadow minister for regional development, re-floated his 2008 idea for a six-star hotel on the Torrens at a CEDA Town Hall forum last week.

His ideal location for the hotel is between the new Royal Adelaide Hospital and the Morphett St bridge.

The plan is not Liberal Party policy, but Hamilton-Smith said he would pursue the idea if the party won government.

“A new six-star hotel would lift the bar. As we seek to export to the Middle-East, Europe and Asia, we will need to offer the standard of hotel accommodation that exists in international destinations,” he said.

“I really favour an Aboriginal theme for such a hotel, which I think would really set a standard and would be probably a national first.”

Hamilton-Smith admitted he hadn’t spoken to any Aboriginal groups about the plan, but that both extensive consultation and the drafting of a thorough business case would be required if it were to go ahead.

“You’d only be doing it if it was part of a process of engangement (with the Aboriginal community).”

The development would be funded mostly by private capital, he said, but with taxpayer-gifted airspace over the rail yards.

“You wouldn’t be putting government money into something which is, in essence, a private venture,” he said.

But Planning Minister John Rau said such a proposal is “not currently on the radar and is presently just a thought-bubble of Mr Hamilton-Smith”.

Sandy Rix directed the Riverbank project for Renewal SA. He has also been responsible for planning the North Terrace redevelopment, Playford Alive and the Bowden development.

He was awarded ‘best planner’ for his career, which judges said demonstrated his “skills in planning and economic development, his experience in both the public and private sectors and the different positions he has held over many years, particularly in South Australia”.

Also last night, Lord Mayor Stephen Yarwood was commended in the “Promotion of Planning” category.

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