The future of the proposed national convention centre in Canberra is in doubt as the ACT Government has withdrawn funding for the preparation of a business case for the project in its mid-year budget update.
The proposal by Italian practice Fuksas Architecture and local practice Guida Moseley Brown Architects (GMB) won the competition to create a reference design for the new convention centre. Their submission for the proposed building, known as Australia Forum, was unanimously chosen by a nine-member jury from a shortlist of seven entries. The winning architects were then required to work with the ACT Government to finalise the reference design and prepare an investment-ready proposal for the centre with $8 million allocated for the purpose.
However, the plan was dropped from the mid-year budget in early February 2017 with the territory government seeking federal government funding for the project as part of negotiations on a city deal.
The new convention centre project is expected to deliver significant economic gains with a report commissioned by the Canberra Business Chamber in January 2015 estimating that there would be a net benefit of $2.40 for every dollar spent over a 20-year period, based on an initial construction cost of $433 million.
Though the reference design, released in June 2015 estimated the building would cost $500 to $700 million, ACT chief minister Andrew Barr claims that figure could rise as high as $900 million in today’s money, significantly impacting the cost-benefit ratio.
The proposed convention centre was planned to be built at the apex of the National Triangle adjacent to City Hill, on a block bound by Constitution Avenue, London Circuit, Commonwealth Avenue and Vernon Circuit. The new building, which would have replaced the existing National Convention Centre on Constitution Avenue, included a 3,000-seat plenary hall, an 8,000-square-metre exhibition area, a ballroom, offices, and retail and meeting spaces.