Ekka redevelopment to keep dagwood dogs coming
Ekka time in Brisbane with the RNA’s major show starting today. Amazingly the Ekka’s been held at the same RNA showgrounds for over 130 years and thanks to some careful redevelopment planning it may continue for a long time yet. The Association announced in May it had appointed Lend Lease as its “Preferred Development Partner” for the 22 hectare (50+ acre) site. Ideas and plans have been tossed around for a couple of years but there’s now a company involved who can make it all happen.
To put this in perspective the Ekka showgrounds are 30% bigger than South Bank, have a railway station at their centre, are comfy walking distance from most of the CBD and are smack bang amongst inner Brisbane’s rapid growth suburbs. And while they do host plenty of non-Ekka events, for most of the year the site’s locked off as an impenetrable island.
There’s a lot of planning to come yet but with a likely value of $3billion and a 15 year timeline (GFC’s and property cycles to be considered) the RNA redevelopment could have a massive impact on the inner city. The planning logic so far is good: protect genuine heritage buildings, make the site active every day of the year, build offices and shops, make room for new apartments, create walkways and bike paths so the site can be traversed and is more integrated into its neighbourhoods and front new buildings onto existing road infrastructure of St Paul’s Terrace, Exhibition and Brookes Streets.
One exciting idea is the establishment of a big fresh produce market. It’s a nice fit with the Ekka’s brand and would be a winner given the popularity of markets like Davies Park and the Powerhouse. Around 5 hectares of the whole site will be developed. And hopefully generate an income for the RNA to ensure it can run the Ekka, and the remaining site, efficiently into the future.
We do wonder if some of the planned densities and heights are too conservative though. Most new buildings seem to be proposed as 8 storey with just one lot of 20 levels. Sites close to heritage buildings couldn’t be included and we do need sunlight and a sense of space. But with such easy access to the full amenities of the inner city isn’t this one of those opportunities for thinking big?
When that first Ekka was held in 1876 Brisbane’s population numbered just 22,000. Now that our city has almost 100 times the residents our key inner city landholdings like the RNA showgrounds need forethought like we’ve never used before.
We’d love to hear your comments.