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Government haggles with Walker Corp over second Festival Plaza tower

Premier Peter Malinauskas says there are “a few different options kicking around” for a second high-rise tower in the Festival Plaza behind Parliament House, but negotiations with Walker Corporation over commercial arrangements and the public realm are proving difficult.

Feb 08, 2024, updated Feb 08, 2024
A second tower is planned for Festival Plaza, behind Parliament House and to the left of the existing tower. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

A second tower is planned for Festival Plaza, behind Parliament House and to the left of the existing tower. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

Malinauskas officially launched the 29-storey One Festival Tower this morning at a press conference alongside Flinders University vice-chancellor Colin Stirling, whose university will occupy eight floors of the new building.

The Premier said the 115-metre-tall office complex adjacent to Parliament House demonstrates that “having people here in the Plaza brings it to life in a way that is a really stark comparison to what was here previously, which was just an abandoned space that was utilised more by graffiti artists than members of the general public”.

But it is still unclear what will be built next to One Festival Tower.

Developers Walker Corporation initially agreed to build a three-storey hospitality retail complex behind Parliament House.

Festival Plaza retail complex

The original three-storey retail complex proposed for the Festival Plaza. Image: Johnson Pilton Walker

But the Malinauskas Government in 2022 encouraged it to consider building a second tower, arguing the three-storey proposal would be a “lost opportunity”.

Walker Corporation then lodged a proposal in February 2023 for a second tower. Little has been disclosed about the project since.

The fenced-off site for a future second Festival Plaza tower. Photo. Tony Lewis/InDaily

Malinauskas said today that his government’s negotiations with Walker Corporation were going “largely as planned” despite the recent death of company chairman and founder Lang Walker.

The Premier said there were “a few different options kicking around” for the site but negotiations are currently focused on the commercial parameters of the new tower and what the public realm investment will be.

He confirmed the proposed building would be a mixed-used tower with retail and hospitality on the ground level and commercial and/or office space above.

“We want to make sure the plaza works. And basically, a plaza without people is just a blank area of concrete,” Malinauskas said.

“What brings places to life is people. So, we’re attracted to ways that that can be facilitated that are tasteful, consistent with the city’s progress more broadly, and economic.

“But also, it has to be in the interest of taxpayers. So, these are all the variables that are being weighed up.

“It’s not a simple negotiation.

“I certainly don’t think Lang would mind me saying this but Walker Corp negotiate hard – that’s their job – and the state government has to do the same to make sure taxpayer interests are reflected.

“We’ve had a degree of progress, but no final arrangement has been reached.”

Malinauskas said any government agreement with Walker Corporation would then have to be approved by the relevant planning authorities.

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“The decisions that have to be made from the state government’s perspective can’t just be in concert with the bottom line – it has to be about the public realm and the heritage of the precinct, particularly that northern side of Parliament House,” he said.

The footprint of the developers’ original three-storey proposal spanned the width and height of Parliament House, according to the government.

Malinauskas said the “quid-pro-quo” with Walker Corporation was allowing them to go “potentially a lot further in height”.

The One Festival Tower is one part of a $663 million investment in the Festival Plaza jointly funded by Walker Corporation and the state government.

Deloitte, Allianz and Mott MacDonald are among the high-profile tenants of the new tower alongside Flinders University.

Vice-chancellor Stirling said there was “great interest” from students in studying at the new campus.

He said close to one thousand Flinders students will study at One Festival Tower in the first year.

“This is one campus of several that Flinders has… we have a total of around about 27,000, 28,000 students,” he said.

“We expect through an entire year five to six thousand students will come through this facility once it’s up to full speed.”

Asked if Flinders had interest in being a tenant in a second Festival Plaza tower, Stirling said: “We’re absolutely thrilled with the space that we have here in this building.

“Obviously, we hope that we’ve taken all the space that we need.

“If it turns out that we need more space, well we’d be looking at our options.”

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