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Crown takeover

10 Sep 2019

Crown takeover Image

Crown Resorts has confirmed that it has purchased now former development partner Schiavello’s 50 per cent stake in the site of its controversial Queensbridge Tower proposal.

The corner site at 1 Queensbridge St, which is still home to the former Queensbridge Hotel building, was the subject of Crown and Schiavello’s two-billion-dollar approved One Queensbridge project.

The controversial plan, which received circumvented planning approval from the state government as a “state significant” project in March 2017, ran to the end of its two-year permit without having started construction.

Ongoing financing issues meant that the project, which included more than 700 apartments and a new luxury hotel, never saw the light of day. Minister for Planning Richard Wynne confirmed in March that the government wouldn’t be issuing the development partners with an extension to carry out the project.

The minister’s decision, which was met with widespread support from the Southbank community, has forced Crown and Schiavello to return to the drawing board.

Following a City of Melbourne review in 2018, the site now also has a heritage overlay for the historic Queensbridge Hotel meaning that any future development will have to incorporate some aspect of the current building within its plans.

Crown Resorts announced at its annual general meeting (AGM) on August 21 that it had agreed to purchase Schiavello’s stake in the site for $80 million.

Its chief financial officer Ken Barton told the meeting there was a “significant opportunity” to increase Crown’s hotel capacity in Melbourne, with the previous project having been hampered by the nation’s property downturn.

“We now have a luxury of time,” he said. “We can look at what the right solution is and that will depend on what is going on in the market at the time.”

The failure of the previous project has also caused frustration to the City of Melbourne, with upgrades to Queensbridge Square, Southbank Promenade and Sandridge Bridge having been tied up in a “public benefits” package as part of the approval.

Despite the setbacks, council’s planning chair Cr Nicholas Reece told Southbank Local News in March that he welcomed the decision and he hoped Crown’s next proposal would adhere to the normal planning process.

“One Queensbridge did not come within a bull’s roar of complying with the Melbourne Planning Scheme and I hope they reflect on that the next time they submit,” he said.

“That said, I very much hope that they [Crown] find a way forward because the city would benefit from the investment and world-class tourism facilities that Crown has a history of building in Melbourne.”

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