Adelaide gets a bit of heart and soul
Three years ago I interviewed former Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett about the lack of a bold, long-term vision for Adelaide.
“I absolutely believe that by 2030 there is a very real chance that South Australia will be one of the high-speed economic states of Australia,” said the man credited with transforming Melbourne. “Adelaide is a lovely city, but in my opinion it still hasn’t identified its core.”
Fast forward to 2011. And in the same week that a possible trillion-dollar mine was tipped within the Woomera Prohibited Area, SACA members yelled YES to changing the face of Adelaide forever. Hallelujah.
No more Malls Balls as the best landmark worth visiting in Adelaide. No more tourism marketing brochures picturing the Elder Park rotunda or the hideous (with all due respect) John Dowie sculpture in Victoria Square as major Adelaide drawcards.
Tourism Australia Chief Executive Andrew McEvoy says the Adelaide Oval redevelopment, combined with a massive re-vitalisation program along the south bank and a water and light feature on the Torrens, will give Adelaide a “centre of gravity” that has long been lacking.
And not a moment too soon, with the WA Government locking in $270m next financial year to kick-start the long-awaited Perth waterfront redevelopment and the new Liberal Government in NSW committed to a $700 million convention, hotel and entertainment complex to restore Sydney’s mojo.
“Australia’s cities are all very different and each has its own unique appeal,” Mr McEvoy says. “Adelaide, though, has those quintessential qualities – it’s a naturally beautiful city, a truly liveable, walkable city that has kept its heritage where many others have lost it.
For the first time, it will also give the city a “heart and soul” – a landmark compelling enough to lure visitors in its own right.
In the 11 years I’ve been back home in SA, this is the most positive I’ve felt about the future of our beautiful city.
Eleven years of failed plans and talk-fests for Victoria Square. Eleven years of rejected bids to create a permanent home for the Clipsal 500 Adelaide and inner-city horse racing, instead of a permanent construction site in Victoria Park.
Eleven years of NO from people who think every development is a win for developers and not for the rest of us; or who live by the Homer Simpson creed that if we don’t try we can’t stuff up.
For me, Monday’s vote wasn’t about AFL in the CBD (although I can’t wait to see it). It was about South Australians feeling confident enough to step outside of our comfort zone and into the 21st century.
Adelaide Oval is just one piece of the puzzle.
The Convention Centre is being reinvented, creating 2500 jobs over five years of construction.
SkyCity Casino has announced its own $250m plans, while up to 13,000 square metres of potential retail, food and beverage space will also be opened up as the Riverbank comes alive.
And imagine if, down the track, the ugly concrete space between Parliament House and the Festival Centre becomes the equivalent of Melbourne’s Federation Square. Fantastic.
It’s time for the Liberals to get behind this, to be mature enough to accept that Adelaide’s growth is more important than political point-scoring on this particular issue. Same too for Adelaide City Council, instead of whining over who-owns-what and every blade of parklands grass.
Who knows – the backlash over other budget areas might well spell doom for the ALP, as it did for the Kennett Government in Victoria. But we will not regret this redevelopment.
“We did cause angst among voters in the bush,” said Jeff Kennett three years ago (and doesn’t that sound familiar?)
“But we firmly believed that, as the capital of Victoria, it was absolutely essential that we get Melbourne out of its slump. The most important thing we did was restore confidence to the people of Victoria.”
Finally, it’s Adelaide’s turn.
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