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Lease Le Cornu site to the public, city council urges

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The Adelaide City Council will ask the owners of the long-vacant former Le Cornu site in North Adelaide to lease it out for public use, as development on the empty plot remains stalled.

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Earlier this year, the Makris Group, which owns the O’Connell Street site, failed to meet the proposed start-date for the construction of a 16-level, golden-hued apartment tower and a six-level hotel building, plus offices, retail outlets, cafes, restaurants and an open square, due to be built there.

As a result, the Development Assessment Commission granted a 12-month extension on the build, which will have to be substantially underway by June 2017.

The city council is now preparing to contact the developer to ask to lease the land for public use – such as for community gardens, seating, play equipment and possibly car parking – while the developer concludes negotiations to allow for construction to begin.

“It’s been 23 years now of [the site] not being able to be used by the community,” Area councillor Anne Moran told InDaily.

“It looks ugly, like a derelict site – it’s time this community isn’t held to ransom by the vagaries of development.

“All we’re asking is [that] when you’re not developing it … let us use it.”

Asked why the development had to be given a 12-month extension, a spokesperson from the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure told InDaily: “The application is continuing to be refined as part of design development through contractual negotiations with a range of tenants.”

Lord Mayor Martin Haese said he wanted to see some of the fences around the site taken down, and hoped for a speedy start to construction.

“I encourage the owners to do everything in their power to deliver a high-quality project for North Adelaide as soon as possible,” he said.

“Partially removing the fences would be a great start.”

But he declined to comment directly on the proposed council lease.

Moran said the Makris Group “hasn’t always had a friendly relationship with the North Adelaide community” because of delays in development since it bought the site from Wallis Cinemas in 2001. She said opening it up for community use would be good public relations for the company.

“That would be a really good show of goodwill,” she said.

“We could have a lot of fun with that site, using it for community [purposes].

“We could do with a few swings and some seats – we could have a 12-month community garden. Whether we can use if for parking, I don’t know.”

She said the council would be willing to pay insurance and associated costs if the Makris Group allowed it to temporarily lease the site, and would be able to vacate it quickly if construction began sooner than expected.

She said she could not “fathom” any reason the company would not allow public use of the site.

“If [the Makris Group] does say no – and this is not to be interpreted as a threat in any way – we should have a chat with the State Government about what we can do [to encourage speedy development on the site],” she said.

The council voted to ask the Makris Group for a temporary lease of the site – and to discuss with the State Government what might be done help speed up the development, should the company decline the request – at its meeting on Tuesday night.

A spokesperson for Makris Group said the company would consider any correspondence from council if and when it was received.

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