While the Ipswich City Mall area is essentially a construction zone, Ipswich City Council’s Interim Administrator, Greg Chemello says its future will be very different from its past, with health seen as the core business of the redeveloped centre of the city, combined with community and social initiatives
The man who was assigned the unenviable job of sorting out the Council’s business practices and governance issues leading up to new Council elections in 2020 has mapped out an ambitious plan for the city centre. This new approach will combine a health-related precinct with people-related meeting places such as the Ipswich Library and eateries, along with the Council Administration building. The objective is to bring business and people back to the redeveloped Nicholas Street over the next decade, but he cautions it will take time and perseverance. Ipswich Central, as a health focused precinct, would host a range of administrative, non-clinical health businesses along with allied businesses.Currently, Ipswich General Hospital services over 250, 000 people within the West Moreton region but the hospital is outgrowing its present location. The Council has sold its current administration building to Queensland Health. This will become the non-clinical centre and take pressure off Ipswich Hospital, thereby retaining the hospital in the city centre. Mr Chemello said that unless that happens Queensland Health could very well decide to build a major hospital for the region somewhere else. With Riverlink as the established retail hub and the University of Southern Queensland covering higher education, it became clear that a refurbished Ipswich CBD needed a different direction to regain its past prominence. Mr Chemello says that while health was already an important direction when he took up the Council reform job, once they looked at other options, it was easy to see why health was the winner.
“We can chase tenants for office buildings… we’ll chase universities to locate here but we can’t control our destiny in these areas, but with health we can.”He said the basic necessity for health services in the comunity makes it a stable investment for the Ipswich region, setting the pathway for a sustainable economic future.
Ipswich’s population growth is expected to be about 500, 000 within 30 years, and Mr Chemello says a reliable health network would provide a sustainable future for the CBD.
The date for Queensland Health to take over the Council administration building is still to be announced, but the CBD upgrade is in sight. The CBD will take on the not-so-new title of ‘Nicholas Street’, as the newly formed street will connect the health, community and government office precincts. Nicholas Street is planned to become the business and community hub of Ipswich once the reconstruction work is completed and the Council-owned buildings have been refurbished and re-leased. Mr Chemello said Council would also work with private building owners to ensure there buildings present well in the revitalised Nicholas Street.
The new space is predicted to be as bigger than King George Square in Brisbane City. While the new library and Council administration building are set to open in a year or two, the business and food hub are set to open next year, and will include re-opening the Queensland Hotel (previously Murphy’s Pub). Nicholas Street is seen as a major social and community hub, revived by the influx of health-related businesses and meeting places. Although Mr Chemello’s term as Interim Administrator is only for another year he and his team have invested a lot of time and effort in the revival of Ipswich, and he is firm in his belief that a future in health is the right direction. While the reconstruction of the CBD is central to most everyone’s view of Ipswich’s future, there’s a lot of work still to be done in preparation for the Council elections in May 2020 – and indeed how the new mayor and councillors take the city forward.
Mr Chemello said it would be the job of the newly elected Mayor and Councillors to complete the process of renewal, and this could only be achieved through a more strategic approach to economic and community development. He said the outcomes of the Community Engagement project were now being assessed leading to a submission to the State Government on the people’s view of how their council would be constituted. Mr Chemello said major issue in the way the previous council operated had to do with councillors being too focused on operations and not on strategic programs that benefit the city as a whole. He also pointed to the shifting boundary separating the political side of Council from the opertational side.
To this end, a ‘tool kit’ for councillors is being developed. This intends to provide the newly elected mayor and councillors with documented procedures and roles that would ensure the Council operates in accordance with the Local Government Act 2009.