Conference centre site push

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A vision for an 1100-person conference centre has been proposed for Queenstown’s Gorge Road carpark site. 

Queenstown architectural de­­­­signer Murray Bennett, who is leading the team behind the proposal, says putting it on the edge of downtown green space the Recreation Ground is a great opportunity. 

“We believe in the site and that it’s even greater than a conference centre. The Recreation Ground is a valuable site that’s under-utilised. 

“We all like the Recreation Ground but it’s never been developed as a way that makes it a civic precinct. This will create quite an unbelievable heart, a sense of place,” Bennett says. 

Bennett, joined by Dunedin co-designer Gary Todd, Queenstown structural engineer Tim Bradford and local surveyor Anthony White, has submitted their proposal to the conference centre steering group, which is still weighing up potential sites. 

Their proposal is for a two- to three-storey conference centre which incorporates Horne Creek as a feature. 

The group’s vision says it’s the best site because it’s central, already has parking, and is a community cultural location. 

Bennett and Todd both believe if it’s done right the whole precinct will not just host rugby and the National Sevens in future but community concerts like Christmas in the Park-type events and big gigs. 

“This development opportunity can enhance an important green space … to foster sustainable business and community growth,” a vision document says. 

“Queenstown is poised to create a community asset for residents and visitors that could become as important as Central Park is to New York.” 

Bennett adds: “There will be concerns about building in and around the Recreation Ground and building in and around Horne Creek. We have addressed those and we’re keen not to mess it up as much as anyone else.” 

Todd says he doesn’t believe the other conference centre sites on the table – like the Man Street carpark or Stanley St – have the same potential. 

“You can travel around the world and not have this sort of opportunity. If they choose to build somewhere else, this opportunity will be missed.” 

Conference centre steering group member Sir Eion Edgar says when Bennett’s vision was put to them everyone was impressed. 

“[But] what we’re keen to see is three or four good alternatives so we have something realistic to look at at. It’s a good site … and there are other good sites.” 

A feasibility study commissioned by the steering group has costed a 750-person centre at $43 million – Bennett and Todd, who’ve both won design awards, say their proposal falls within that cost. They estimate it’d take 18 months to 
two years to complete.