Ipswich City Council need to lock in an operator for its CBD cinema complex before works can begin to overhaul the site.
Ipswich City Council need to lock in an operator for its CBD cinema complex before works can begin to overhaul the site.

CBD update: Council still searching for cinema operator

IPSWICH City Council received “several” submissions from prospective tenants keen to take over its upgraded CBD cinema complex but an operator won’t be locked in for at least another six months.

The council launched an expressions of interest campaign in January to find a business to manage the site formerly filled by Birch, Carroll and Coyle.

This closed on March 12.

It seemed at one state United Cinemas would take over the facility but rejected leasing the building late last year.

The massive financial impact of COVID-19 on the cinema industry was flagged as the reason for the decision, with businesses wanting to settle on a management agreement over a lease agreement in the current financial climate.

The council says the cinema will be key to the success of the $239 million redevelopment of the city centre.

Upgrades to the building, which will include the addition of two extra cinemas to take the total in the complex to eight, will only start once an operator has signed off.

“(The council) received submissions from several market participants,” a report to the council’s Ipswich Central Redevelopment Committee noted.

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“Council has engaged an independent probity advisor to oversee the EOI/Tender process to provide a high-level of confidence on the equity of the procurement process.”

It is anticipated the resulting lease or management agreement and associated documentation will be finalised and executed with the successful cinema operator as early as October this year.

“Execution of an (agreements for lease) or management agreement for the cinema is the trigger for commencement of the retail refurbishment of the Venue building,” the report noted.

The council’s acting general manager for infrastructure and environment Sean Madigan said in February the cinema could be “up and running” by early next year.

“We expect to have cafes and various offerings up and running about September of this year,” he said.

In terms of the wider Nicholas Street Precinct, as of March 24 the council said 13 non-legally binding heads of agreement had been endorsed for businesses.

Of those 13, legal documentation had been provided to seven prospective tenants and documentation was being prepared for the other six.

“Discussions also continued with other prospective tenants during the month,” the report noted.

“Retail leasing continues to progress according to plan.

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“The upcoming commencement of retail refurbishment works to the Eats and Metro B buildings (including facade and streetscape works) will prepare both assets for tenant fit-out and reinforce council’s commitment to (the) precinct’s completion.”

Construction of the council’s huge administration building is complete with about 600 expected to move in in the last two weeks of June.

The dedicated children’s library on the ground floor will officially open on June 28.

Restoration work on the Commonwealth Hotel is expected to be finished this month.

“The final options and cost estimates to widen Bottle Alley between Nicholas and Ellenborough Streets have been received,” the report noted.

A detailed briefing on options for Bottle Alley was presented to councillors at a workshop last month.

More events will be held at the precinct in the coming months, including the Paddock Markets to launch in May, a gin festival, the Domestic Violence Action Centre’s remembrance march and candlelight vigil set for May and the ‘secret laneway series’ in the new Cribb and Foote Lane, which is formerly known as Smokers’ Alley.

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Read more stories by Lachlan McIvor here.