Collection House co-founder John Pearce said Dexus’ $2 billion plan to redevelop Brisbane’s Eagle Street Pier – which includes two high-rise towers and a promenade on the Brisbane River – would make it the “ugly duckling” of the city’s riverside CBD strip.
The long-mooted redevelopment of the popular but dated section of restaurants and bars in the heart of Brisbane’s CBD was given the green light by Brisbane City Council last year, as well as the endorsement of the Palaszczuk state government.
But luxury apartment owners in the neighbouring Harry Seidler-designed 53-level Riparian Plaza, are furious about the planned Dexus development which they believe is excessive.
High-profile tenants of Riparian Plaza include veteran businessman John Pearce – who owns the 1069-square-metre penthouse – and businesswoman Sarina Russo who enjoy unrivalled views over Brisbane’s Story Bridge.
Mr Pearce, who is now retired and moved into Riparian Plaza in 2006, said the Dexus proposal would overshadow the river city’s unique skyline which he says was as synonymous with Brisbane as the Opera House was to Sydney and Federation Square to Melbourne.
“Quite frankly, this is an iconic area in Brisbane. This development is just over-sized. I am basically disappointed at what I think will be an eyesore,” Mr Pearce told The Australian Financial Review.
“I’ve never been particularly concerned something would be built there [on Eagle Street Pier], but I’m staggered this has been allowed to go ahead in this form. I believe that there is a case that this has been over-commercialised.”
Riparian’s owner Bloomberg have launched a legal challenge over Dexus’ proposed Waterfront Brisbane development which will feature a 49-storey and a 43-storey tower, restaurants and bars as well as a 6-metre wide promenade and a new 280-metre river walk leading to the city’s Botanic Gardens.
The opponents claim the first new tower will be only 14 metres away from Riparian Plaza when council regulations say it should be at least 18 metres.
Ms Russo, in her submission to council, said she supported “development in the name of progress”, but says the Waterfront Brisbane project was disproportionate to the rest of the riverside buildings.
She noted Riparian Plaza is the only adjoining property not owned or controlled by Dexus.
The Riparian Plaza owners have appealed to the Planning and Environment Court saying Brisbane City Council’s decision to approve the project with amended conditions just before Christmas breached planning laws.
“The proposed development did not comply with the applicable assessment benchmarks and could not be conditioned to comply with the applicable assessment benchmarks,” court documents said.
They said the amendments to the original development application – including increasing gross floor area by 5635 square metres, putting in more bars and restaurants and increasing works on Brisbane River – was “substantially different” and not minor changes for the purposes of the Planning Act 2016.
Harry Seidler’s widow, Penelope – a renowned architect in her own right – also complained to council about the Waterfront Brisbane development, describing it as an “anathema” to what Brisbane’s riverfront was about.
“It appears as an over-scaled wall of glass positioned without any regard to the established principles respected in the design of all other towers to their mutual benefit and to the benefit of this part of Brisbane,” she wrote in a submission to council.
“The proposed design seems to turn its back in disrespect of Brisbane – ‘if you’re not on our waterfront, you don’t exist’. The building shape forms a wall separating the city from the river.”
Dexus chief investment officer Ross Du Vernet said Waterfront Brisbane would unlock the full potential of the Brisbane riverside site which has remained undeveloped for almost 30 years.
“The project’s scale and central riverfront location will firmly establish Waterfront Brisbane as a world-class destination and is set to reshape the daily experience of the many people who visit and work there,” Mr Du Vernet said late last year after council approval.
The case will be heard in the Planning and Environment Court next month.
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