The Queensland Times Mayoral candidate forum held at USQ Ipswich on Tuesday night. Teresa Harding.
The Queensland Times Mayoral candidate forum held at USQ Ipswich on Tuesday night. Teresa Harding.

Is council spending $16.9 million on a new cinema or not?

QUESTIONS have been raised at several Queensland Times candidate forums over the cost of the Ipswich CBD redevelopment and the $16.9 million earmarked for the renovation of the former Birch Carroll and Coyle cinema site.

The issue has caused local businesses concern, including other cinema operators.

The question was raised again at Wednesday night’s mayoral forum.

“We have already seen the largest cinema group in Australia, Birch Carroll and Coyle, pull out of the CBD and we now have major cinemas in Riverlink, Redbank Plains, Orion and soon Mt Ommaney,” a voter said.

“Do you believe a cinema could survive and also that ratepayers should risk $17 million on what looks to be mission impossible?”

Teresa Harding was asked to answer the question after there was confusion over if she was aware of the money that would be spent on the potential cinema when it was discussed at the first mayoral forum.

“During my response, I added that there was no public information that the $16 million was going to be spent on building a cinema complex.

“Today, I have fact-checked with the administrator and I have confirmed that while $16 million is being spent on an area called the Venue, which is being spent on the old cinema site, a chemist and the vacant retail space, it would not be building a cinema complex.

“The area has no fit-out. Whoever leases it, whether it is laser tag or indoor go-carts or if it’s a cinema, that business will be paying for that fit-out.”

A report on the Ipswich Central Redevelopment dated October 2019 by KPMG stated the Venue was intended to be redeveloped to contain entertainment and leisure offerings and provide strong appeal as a go-to destination.

“In particular, this asset is intended to contain a cinema on the upper level and a leisure offering on the lower level (for example, indoor karting),” it said.

The full report is publicly available on the council’s website.

The council lodged a development application back in December which proposed to reconfigure and extend the existing cinema complex on the ground level to include two additional cinemas and provide a total of eight cinemas.

Ipswich City Council Interim Administrator Steve Greenwood said the money being spent on the Venue is to upgrade the entire building, not just the potential cinema site.

“Council approved the Retail Property Strategy at the council meeting which was held on October 28, 2019,” he said.

“It should be noted that this amount is required to bring the building up to a tenantable standard and while we are exploring a cinema offering, the cost relates to the entire building, not just the cinema level.

“All this information is publicly available.”