Ipswich City Council is still searching for an operator to run the CBD cinema complex.
Ipswich City Council is still searching for an operator to run the CBD cinema complex.

When cinema, food outlets are set to open in CBD precinct

IPSWICH City Council’s upgraded CBD cinema complex is expected to be up and running by early next year even with an operator yet to be confirmed for the site.

An expressions of interest campaign is under way by the council to secure an operator as the Nicholas Street Precinct takes shape.

It ends on March 2.

Construction of the new Ipswich City Council administration building in the Nicholas Street Precinct is expected to be completed by March.
Construction of the new Ipswich City Council administration building in the Nicholas Street Precinct is expected to be completed by March.

The $35 million civic plaza Tulmur Place opened in November and the Ipswich Central Library followed in December.

Construction of the $95 million council administration building is expected to be completed by March with staff set to move in from June.

Due to the delay in securing a cinema operator, which the council says is crucial to the success of the precinct, the upgrade of the site was postponed and work will instead proceed on the Eats and Metro B buildings.

The total budget for the CBD redevelopment sits at $239.1 million.

The council’s acting general manager for infrastructure and environment Sean Madigan updated councillors at Thursday’s ordinary meeting on how things were progressing.

“(In the past) six weeks we have seen a high level of engagement from industry in relation to leasing the various spaces in the Nicholas Street Precinct including level two of the council administration building and the cafe/bar area on Nicholas St,” he said.

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“We are in confidential discussions with a prominent local business with a view of expanding their footprint in the city and operating that bar.

“We have the cinema EOI out on the market and early indication is there is significant interest there as well.”

Mr Madigan could not reveal the names of any specific businesses due to confidentially issues but said a mix of local businesses wanting to expand and “international brands” were looking at leasing spaces in the precinct.

“We didn’t see this momentum towards the end of last year and COVID was a complication surrounding that, however, in the last six weeks or so the interest in the market has really increased and shows really positive signs,” he said.

Mayor Teresa Harding said the two most common questions asked of her by residents about the precinct was when the cinema would open and when food outlets would be brought in.

A report to the council in February noted eleven non-legally binding heads of agreement had been endorsed.

Ipswich City Council’s acting general manager for infrastructure and environment Sean Madigan.
Ipswich City Council’s acting general manager for infrastructure and environment Sean Madigan.

Of those eleven, legal documentation has been provided to six prospective tenants and documentation was being prepared for the other five.

“We would anticipate the cinema to be up and running early in the next year,” Mr Madigan said.

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

Mr Madigan said the latest valuation of the new administration building as an ongoing tenanted building was about $145 million.

“A significant return on investment there,” he said.

Reconstruction works on the Commonwealth Hotel are set to be completed by April but any internal fit-out work will be dependant on an operator coming in.

“We are in discussions and negotiations with two different parties to bring that back to a functional hotel,” Mr Madigan said.

“We are very confident of having a fully leased or mostly fully leased precinct certainly by the end of this year … providing a real destination for the people of Ipswich.”

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A report to councillors last month stated the final options and cost estimates to widen Bottle Alley between Nicholas and Ellenborough streets would be received in early February.

It stated a final position and recommendation would be made available in mid-February.

The council came under fire after the popular mural in the alley was painted over last year.

“Any options the council put up will come to councillors first,” Cr Harding said.

“I’ve been working with council officers on this very issue ensuring that we get some very detailed plans and ideas that we can share with the community,” Deputy Mayor Marnie Doyle added.

“We are looking forward to consulting and working through options as we redevelop Bottle Alley.”

Read more stories by Lachlan McIvor here.