Remarkables Park says it’s opening a 900-delegate multi-million-dollar convention centre in 2016 – as a council-backed Queens-town centre hangs in the balance.
The Frankton shopping centre developer says it will apply for resource consent this coming Tuesday and hopes to start building next autumn.
Councillors will vote next Thursday on whether to proceed with a controversial $50 million-plus conference centre at the Lakeview site off Man Street, largely funded by commercial and residential ratepayers.
Remarkables Park Ltd co-director Alastair Porter tells Mountain Scene he’s pleased he can finally publicly reveal what his company’s planning.
“It’s hugely exciting news for Queenstown that we’re under way with this much sought-after facility.”
Remarkables Park intends locating its 2700 square metre, 12m high conference centre to the south of its planned extension to the shopping centre, getting under way later this year.
Stage one, scheduled to open in the second half of 2016, will have room for 900 delegates – about twice the size of the next largest conference venue in town, he says.
Stage two would increase that capacity by more than 50 per cent.
“I think stage one is what’s suitable for Queenstown right now,” Porter says.
Porter reveals his firm increased the size of the centre after looking at other facilities and speaking to conference organisers during research trips to Australia, Rotorua, Auckland and Hamilton.
The centre will be a flat-floor facility with concertina walls that can be pulled in or out to create lecture hall, dining, breakout and exhibition spaces.
“It works in a very flexible way for as many different events as possible – conferences won’t be the only events that will be run there,” Porter says.
A separate foyer will be used for exhibitions and for cocktail functions serviced by a cafe backing on to a kitchen.
The centre, designed by Dunedin architects Mason & Wales, will be surrounded by a pedestrian plaza.
Porter says the plans received initial positive feedback and constructive ideas last week from a joint council and Remarkables Park design review board including highly experienced local architects and landscape architects.
Porter: “It will be a big striking building that’s predominantly in charcoal to reflect the colours of the schist on the Remarkables [mountain range] with red highlight trim which reflects the sunsets in the area and the hawthorn berries when they are in flower on the Remarkables.”
The centre will be complemented by 120-room and 60-room hotels within walking distance.
“A huge advantage of this conference centre is it’s got hotels and retail right next door to it.”
The hotels will also offer extra breakout facilities for conference delegates, he adds.
There are another 650 hotel rooms within five kilometres of the site, he says, while CBD hotels are only 10 minutes away.
Because the site is appropriately zoned for a conference centre, Porter hopes he’ll have resource consent by the end of next month.
Remarkables Park will then proceed with detailed drawings before applying for a building consent.
“In a sense we have already turned soil because we’ve built the road right up to the entry and just put in a sewer pipe for it.”
Porter believes it’s very important the facility’s established before planned conference centres are built in Christchurch and Wellington, because those cities also have direct flights from Australia.
“We’re well aware of the fact that the conference centre itself will not make a lot of money but it will generate a lot of business for everyone else. It’s an important piece of economic development for Queenstown, the Queenstown/Frankton area and for Remarkables Park.”
Porter says the centre’s likely to run by an independent management company.
REMARKS V LAKEVIEW
Remarkables Park boss Alastair Porter believes the council’s proposed ratepayer-funded conference centre is unnecessary.
“We submitted that we don’t think that it is necessary for the council to commit a large amount of community money to the facility they’re proposing at Lakeview.”
Porter maintains his privately-funded facility will satisfy the district’s requirement for a conference centre for some time into the future.
Reminded council boss Adam Feeley last year described his proposal as “laughable”, Porter says: “I think the chief executive has always been very enthusiastic about his project and I applaud him for his enthusiasm, but I think that this project is a better solution for the district.”
Porter’s unfazed if councillors vote to support the Lakeview project next week: “They’ll simply be taking another step forward but they’ll probably still be a long way from building it.
“It will be interesting to see whether they’ll continue to do that once they see this [conference centre] being built.”
Porter, who maintains he’s kept the council updated with his plans, says “we’d be delighted if the council wanted to work with us on a joint venture – our door’s open”.
Asked his response to Porter’s announcement, Feeley says a consent “will clearly be a step forward”.
“However, as we all acknowledge, capital and operational funding is the key to business viability.”
Feeley says Remarkables Park Ltd (RPL) advised the council last December that it would file for resource consent this March/April to enable construction to begin mid-this year.
“It remains unclear to us when, and how, RPL will fund the development and operations of a convention centre.”
Feeley disputes Porter’s claim he’s kept the council informed.
“It is unclear why, despite repeated requests, RPL has been unwilling to provide council with the information needed to make an informed decision on whether in fact two viable conference centre options exist (ie. funding and operational issues, as well as detailed designs).
“This would significantly assist council deliberations.”
If two options were to exist, Feeley says one would have to consider what the best one is: “Is a convention centre in a sub-optimal location that does not meet international convention requirements better than one which may cost the community more, but deliver greater economic benefits?
“This is obviously a question for councillors to consider.”