New contract to provide retail and entertainment premises in Nicholas Street precinct

Ipswich City Council is set to sign a $40 million contract with Hutchinson Builders to reconstruct the retail, entertainment and commercial premises of the Nicholas St, Ipswich Central redevelopment.

The retail project is part of a broader program of works taking place to revitalise the Ipswich CBD around Nicholas Street, the largest part of which is the civic project, including a new council administration building, library and civic space.

A combination of council-owned assets makes up the entire project site, inter-mixed with existing and heritage commercial buildings as well as the Icon Tower built in 2013.

The five council-owned retail buildings across the Nicholas St precinct are:
• Metro A (Bell Street link)
• Metro B (2 Bell Street)
• Eats (food and beverage tenancies on the western side of Nicholas Street)
• Venue (entertainment building on the western side of Nicholas Street)
• Commonwealth Hotel (reconstruction of this building is separate to the retail project)

Hutchinson Builders were previously awarded the $140 million council contract in June 2019 to deliver the civic precinct and buildings, and progress has been substantial in recent months, with excavation work, structural reinforcement to in-ground structures and concrete poured for building footings.

Interim Administrator Greg Chemello said it was “value for money” and a “good deal for ratepayers” with the same construction company heading the retail project.

He said council had looked at selling its retail assets in the CBD but there were few interested buyers in their current state, so it was necessary to refurbish these retail premises, lease them to new businesses bringing back life to Ipswich Central and then sell them down the track.

“We are not going to make any money out of this, we will break even. The purpose is to bring life back to the city,” he said.

Mr Chemello said appointing Hutchinson Builders reduced the tender period and potential Nicholas Street completion by 3-6 months, and reduced overall costs for council. It would also ensure consistency with finishes and fixtures across the precinct between the civic and retail projects.

“The likely impact on community and the public is expected to be reduced by streamlining construction activities to a single principal contractor for coordination of works within the precinct,” he said.

Council’s Economic Development Committee also reported that stabilisation work to the Commonwealth Hotel had been completed and an architect appointed to prepare concept designs and complete the reconstruction documents to enable a tender for next year.

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