High-rise apartments, a luxury hotel and the proposed new convention centre would transform central Canberra, new government tender documents reveal.
Calling for expressions of interest in the $800,000 design process, Land Development Agency documents reveal the new centre could include a banquet and ball room, a meeting hall, offices, and exhibition and retail spaces.
The documents call for an "iconic design" for the project, which is expected to cost as much as $400 million, with two main levels and four street frontages.
At between 25 metres and 30 metres tall, the building's design points to a vast redevelopment of the subdued precinct, dotted by open-air car parks and green space.
A towering hotel and apartments would create a gateway for the view towards Parliament House, with light rail running down Commonwealth Avenue and linking to a proposed 30,000-seat stadium.
ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher expects the wider City to the Lake urban plan, which includes the convention centre, to spark community debate.
"I don’t underestimate some of the responses and some of the debates as this project evolves over time . . . it is a prominent site," Ms Gallagher said.
"Part of the success of the Australia Forum is that it has to be for the nation's capital as well and the site will be fantastic to promote."
Ms Gallagher signalled that high-rise hotels and development were part and parcel of the project and central to profitability.
"There's no money in convention centres," Ms Gallagher said. "But [profit] can stack up if you’re doing hotels and other development around them."
Ms Gallagher indicated there was no reason Canberra firms could not complete the design work.
She indicated private-sector pressure for a "level playing field" for the work existed.
But the Chief Minister cautioned that local firms had already been working on drafts and she would push for "value for money" for Canberra.
"There's certainly the acknowledgment that, at the moment, we need to be supporting local – but that's within the confines of good procurement process," Ms Gallagher said.
The ACT government has previously committed to bringing City to the Lake to the investment stage by the end of the 2014-15 financial year and has drawn criticism from opposition Liberal MLAs for its handling of the project.
It includes large redevelopment of areas including the West Basin of Lake Burley Griffin, City Hill, Anzac Parade, the Canberra Olympic Pool and large-surface car parks.
A stadium, new aquatic centre and urban beach are all included in the plans, as well as the arrival of more than 10,000 new residents.
Inside the convention centre would be a sphere-shaped "centre for dialogue", with two halls about 16,000 square metres in size and with capacity for as many as 5000.
"The frontage and entrance off Vernon Circle would become a highly visible and important element of the city itself," the brief says.
"The site was seen as having the potential to be 'the best address in Canberra'."
A 2010 study for the convention centre included security features to allow for events with international dignitaries and high-level meetings such as the G20 or Commonwealth Heads of Government summits.
It also called for an on-site 350 to 400-bed hotel with four and five-star accommodation.
A similar project in Sydney, started in recent days and to be completed in late-2016, is expected to cost more than $1 billion.
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