Councilors and staff met behind closed doors last night to receive an update from their chosen developer for the 88 O’Connell Street site, which has been vacant for more than 20 years.
The board is currently in a non-binding agreement with the developer – believed to be Adelaide-based Commercial and General – and the two parties have signed a nondisclosure agreement that prevents information from being released to the public.
Ahead of last night’s discussion, the board’s associate director of property, Tom McCready, said confidentiality was required because elected members would be presented with “important information” relating to intellectual property.
He said the last date the council could release the plans to the public would be May 23, but the council “intends to wrap things up much sooner than that.”
“This date is linked to a commitment by the state government,” he said.
“It depends on what state government information the elected members are aware of. “
The council agreed to buy the old Le Cornu site for $ 34 million in 2017 after 20 years of vacancy.
The sale, which Daily revealed was up to $ 14 million above the professionally appraised value of the site, was helped by a state government grant of $ 10 million.
A spokesman for Planning Minister Stephan Knoll said there was “nothing to stop the Council from making its plans public unless it has an agreement with the developer not to. To do”.
The spokesperson said that when the state government signed its funding agreement, it asked city council to meet certain criteria before May 23 to receive the $ 10 million funding.
“They have to meet these requirements by May 23, which they are supposed to be on track to do.”
McCready clarified to Daily in a press release this afternoon: “The state government’s financial commitment to the redevelopment of 88 O’Connell Street has a requirement (under the funding agreement) to progress with a development agreement executed.”
“Council is confident to meet the requirements of the funding agreement and to advance this exciting opportunity to revitalize such an important entry site in the city,” he said.
Regional Councilor Anne Moran and North Ward Councilor Phil Martin objected to holding the council meeting behind closed doors last night, saying the discussion was in the public interest.
They also criticized the planned public release date of the plan as “too late”.
“We decided this a long time ago and it’s really embarrassing not being able to say anything to the people who actually own the land and are paying for the development,” Moran said.
“We’re not talking about spies or spyware or anything like that.
“We’re talking about state-owned land, we’re talking to the lucky developer who got our green light – or majority.
“What are they going to tell us that Joe Blow’s taxpayer doesn’t deserve to hear? “
Martin added that there was “enough speculation in the media” about the developer chosen by the board to warrant open discussion.
But the head of board governance, Rudi Deco, said the information published in the media was “totally irrelevant.”
“You can come to discuss everything in public, but there will be consequences for that and these consequences will ultimately be unfavorable to the community which will be really affected in the pocket, which is taxpayers’ money,” he said. he declares.
The advertiser reported in November that the board had chosen Commercial and General as its preferred developer following a global expression of interest process, but the board declined to confirm the report.
At last night’s meeting, board growth director Ian Hill denied that board staff had disclosed the developer’s name to the media.
“It’s a small town (and) obviously speculation is speculation, but from our point of view we have not disclosed any information about the promoters of this project and have no intention of doing so. until we come to a development agreement, “he said.
Daily later spotted what were supposed to be sales and general staff entering Town Hall ahead of last night’s confidential session.
Furniture retailer Le Cornu owned the O’Connell Street block for 134 years before it was sold in 1989.
Real estate mogul Con Makris last offered to develop a $ 200 million apartment, retail and hotel complex on the site in 2014, but that proposal – like many before it – fell through. .
Last year, SA Best MLC Frank Pangallo asked the state government to buy the Le Cornu site from city council to speed up what he described as a long development process.
The council plans to begin construction on the site next year.
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