Petition Launched to Buy Back Old ABC Site for New Toowong Riverside Park

A petition seeking to buy back the old ABC site on Coronation Drive and turn it into a public park is gaining numbers following news that Sunland Group plans to sell the 1.5-hectare site. Local Greens MP Michael Berkman, who has been seeking to build a public park in the abandoned property for years, launched the petition and renewed his calls for the Government to give Toowong its green space. 

Sunland Group bought the old ABC site in 2013, years after it has been sitting idle. However, its development plans failed to take off after a back and forth in court until the Supreme Court rejected its three-tower proposal in 2018. 

“This 15,000m2 riverfront site should never have been privatised by the former federal Labor government. It has sat empty and derelict for almost 15 years, and now the private developer owner Sunland is putting the site up for sale,” Mr Berkman wrote in his petition, which has since logged nearly 1,500 signatures within 24 hours. “This beautiful riverfront land should be a publicly owned community space, with things we can all enjoy like a park, a public pool, gardens, a community centre and more.”  

“This is a golden opportunity: the developer is clearly trying to offload this land during the COVID-19 downturn, so the government could either buy it for a good price now or let it sit empty for years while the new owner waits for better market conditions,” Mr Berkman said in a statement. “Right now this land is sitting vacant and derelict while locals cry out for more public green space to offset growth, with a major 25-story development planned for the former Woolworths site up the road, and the Toowong-West End green bridge proposed to land at exactly this site.” 

To increase public awareness and encourage more people to sign the petition, Mr Berkman posted a photo of the Toowong Swimming Pool from the 1960s. The pool was publicly funded and built in 1909 but the Council sold the property in 2001. 

Photo Credit: Michael Berkman – Greens MP for Maiwar/Facebook

“Nowadays there would be hundreds of private pools within a few kilometres of this spot, but most people don’t have access to a place to swim locally,” he said on Facebook. “I think it’s time for a public pool for Toowong and the west side, and the old ABC site would be a perfect location.” 

Mr Berkman also did a survey among Toowong residents in 2019 and learned that 88 percent want the old ABC site to be a “publicly owned riverside park with things we can all enjoy, like a pool, gardens, a dance hall or a new community centre.”

“This should be a non-partisan issue,” the MP reiterated. “So the local community and I are asking Labor and LNP representatives to work together to return this land into public hands.” 

Locals Want a Bridge Connecting Toowong to West End, Community Survey Reveals

Around 90 percent of 1,633 local survey respondents support a new footbridge for pedestrians and cyclists between Toowong and West End.

The community survey by State Greens MP for Maiwar Michael Berkman and Councillor for The Gabba Jonathan Sri was created to get the residents’ input regarding the plans for the old ABC site and whether they support a bridge to West End.

Only 5.39 percent is against the idea, whilst the remaining 4.35 percent of residents are not sure if it will be a good idea to build a Toowong and West End connection.

Cr Sri said there had been various studies and plans for a bridge over the years. However, none had ever given local residents a direct vote to gauge what they thought.

“A bridge for pedestrians and cyclists would give West End residents a direct link to Toowong Village and train station as well as a shorter, safer cycling route to UQ,’’ he said.

According to Mr Berkman, the exact location and design of the footbridge would be subject to further consultations with residents, following more detailed work by the engineering, planning and design experts.

Meanwhile, when asked if it is a good idea that the Federal Government sold the former ABC site to a private developer back in 2013, 81 percent of respondents said the government should not have sold it.

They believe it should be converted into a public space, like a public park with large shady trees, a spot to have a picnic, or barbecues.

Around 15 percent of residents are neutral or not sure and the other 3.5 percent believe it was just a good idea that the federal government sold the site to a private developer.

Out of all 1600 respondents, 87 percent believes the Federal/State Government or the City Council should buy back the land to create a new public space in Toowong.

Plans for the Former ABC Site

Photo credit: Zaha Hadid Architects

Luxury developer Sunland Group acquired the site in 2013 for $20 million, despite Brisbane City Council lobbying for it to be turned into parkland.

After being rejected by the Planning and Environment Court for their proposed 27-storey skyscrapers, they decided to prepare a new development application for the site this year.

Sunland said the new project is still in its planning stage, but the company’s managing director Sahba Abedian said they are now directing every effort to conceive a new architectural outcome that “celebrates the unique riverfront site.”

ABC Site as a Public Space

In February 2019, Mr Berkman urged the state government to purchase the site and convert it to parkland.

“The former ABC site could be an idyllic riverfront park and a perfect landing point for a walking and cycling bridge connecting West End and Toowong,’’ Mr Berkman said.

Mr Berkman and Cr Siri will keep the survey open for another three weeks. He encourages the residents to provide their input regarding the ABC site and the Toowong and West End Bridge.

Apart from answering the survey, Mr Berkman also encourages the residents to participate in a community forum at the Figs on Sylvan at 65 Sylvan Road, Toowong on 17 April 2019 from 6:00 pm to 7:30 pm.

“Everyone is welcome, and more information including confirmed speakers will follow soon,” Mr Berkman said.