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Hints at shape of Crows' HQ as council grapples with secrecy

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The proposed multi-million dollar Crows’ headquarters in North Adelaide could comprise multiple buildings and should ultimately return space to the park lands, Adelaide City councillors have hinted.

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Discussions to replace the ageing Adelaide Aquatic Centre on Park 2 with a new sport and recreation facility run by the Adelaide Football Club are shrouded in secrecy, with city councillors last night lamenting the fact they are bound to confidentiality by their own unsolicited bid process.

InDaily last week reported the Adelaide Football Club was progressing with preliminary plans for the site, with elected members on Monday night given a presentation behind closed doors on the club’s vision.

That presentation followed a decision in March to progress the Crows’ bid to stage 2 of the council’s unsolicited proposals process, which, according to the council, involves “detailed consideration of the feasibility of the proposal, how it will be delivered, and whether it represents value for money”.

The public will not be consulted until after the council receives a formal proposal from the Crows, with a “community engagement” strategy yet to be devised and a needs analysis assessing the current usage of the Adelaide Aquatic Centre still underway.

In the meantime, the council’s CEO Mark Goldstone has sought to quell any release of information about the Crows’ plans, telling councillors before last night’s public meeting that details of the proposal remained confidential.

“I just want to be sure that you don’t inadvertently divulge any information that’s been presented previously,” Goldstone warned elected members.

“I recognise there’s been a degree of impatience that we’re not providing information to our community.

“I must say, we’re getting much closer to being able to provide that information and also to explain to the community the process and the timeframes of that.

“We’re now at a point where the Adelaide Football Club can advance their concept mapping or their planning and I anticipate that they will lodge their concept plans in the very near future.”

Despite the forewarning, area councillor Anne Moran suggested plans for the site could encompass more than one building during a critique of the council’s confidentiality provisions.

“What we’re doing is denying the people that pay our rates and would be affected any ability to say: ‘Well, this is what we want. We want one building, two buildings, four buildings’,” she said.

“I think how we’re doing this is insulting to our councillors and I’ve been very, very offended by the attitude of the administration tonight in their rather roughshod behaviour towards our confidentiality.”

Asked by InDaily this morning whether her reference to multiple buildings was based off the plans shown to councillors on Monday night, Moran said, “it could”.

“But I can’t say that,” she said.

“The CEO is ready to pounce on me like a caged tiger.

“There could be a conglomerate of buildings, but I can’t reveal any of that information.”

During the meeting, Moran and fellow councillor Phil Martin attempted to reprimand south ward councillor Alexander Hyde for inferring that the proposal “potentially” could return more land to the park lands.

“What we’ve got before us and potentially down the track is an opportunity for us to deal with that site in a better way and, in fact, potentially open more of it up to the community and to actually have a net reduction and alienation of the park lands,” Hyde said.

“This huge, metal glass pyramid that’s currently there is not in line with Colonel Light’s vision, but a more open and greener space would be.

“That’s the real value.”

Moran and Martin’s objection was dismissed by the meeting’s chair Deputy Lord Mayor Houssam Abiad, who said Hyde was only speaking to the council’s “guiding principles” for the proposal.

Hyde also told InDaily this morning his comments were in reference to the guiding principles, which stipulate that any development must be “sympathetic to park lands setting” and have a “reduction in net footprint of any facility infrastructure in its developed form”.

“Since day one, my line has always been that this is an opportunity to lessen the build form impact on the park lands, return soil to the park lands, and deliver better services to ratepayers,” Hyde told InDaily.

“Why wouldn’t we want to encourage a proposal that could give more land back for community use while also providing better aquatic services?”

The council introduced its unsolicited bid process over a year ago, with the Crows’ proposal the first to be processed under the rules.

Lord Mayor Sandy Verschoor reiterated Goldstone’s call for respecting confidentiality last night, telling councillors that they were “bound by our own policy”, but she said it was her view that the public should ideally be consulted sooner.

“I should just remind members that the reason why the policy came about in the first place was off the (Gillman) debacle and the State Government put an unsolicited bid process in and council did too to protect us and to protect the process and to protect the rights of the individuals in the process,” Verschoor said.

“I totally agree – it is public land and we will be consulting with our community as soon as we have a proposal.

“The policy does need review – that’s fine – we can do that when we’ve got to the other end and we can actually review the process that we went through and we can made amendments should we wish to.”

Abiad said that the process was needed “as a business vehicle for people to be able to involve themselves with the business of council”.

But he conceded “if any councillor would have thought at the time that that would have meant that park lands were involved I think all of us would have turned around and said, ‘look, maybe exclude the park lands’”.

Goldstone told councillors that there was still “a fair bit of work to be undertaken before any final decisions are made”.

“I stress that should the concept be considered acceptable to council… a full design, a full cost analysis and a business case and operating model will be created and determined for you to consider,” he said.

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