The historic Howard Smith Wharf, located beneath Brisbane’s Story Bridge, is being developed at an approximate cost of $200 million. It is part of an ongoing infrastructure program which aims to make the city a tourism mecca and attract businesses, the arts and medical expertise to a city rapidly modernising itself through government-backed, private market-led investment.
Howard Smith Ltd was an industrial company founded as a shipping company in 1854. Later it diversified into other areas such as steel-making, coal mining, sugar production, retail and stevedoring. In the 1990’s its divisions began to be sold off before being taken over by Wesfarmers in August 2001.
The original wharves were extended in the 1930’s along with the construction of the iconic Story Bridge which was finished in January 1940. With the eventual moving of the Port of Brisbane downstream the wharf area was abandoned in the 1960’s and lay vacant and in dereliction until recently. Today, concerns about the impact of flooding have been addressed (through the construction, for example of the massive Queen’s Wharf River Wall) and the new development, part of larger transformative vision for the city, has created 200 local jobs. The Howard Smith Wharves are expected to create another 800 jobs changing “the face of our city forever” in the words of Tourism Minister, Kate Jones.
The 3.4-hectare site is becoming a prime waterfront precinct which will celebrate the history of the wharves and produce public open spaces which can be used for festivals, markets and the like. A 1500 square metre exhibition space in the centre of the site for food and cultural festivals is part of this. In all, more than four fifths of the site has been allocated as public space with $17 million being spent on landscaping which will yield shaded security in Brisbane’s sub-tropical climate for local people and the many visitors anticipated.
The project includes a 164-room, 5-star boutique hotel by Art Series Hotel, specialists in this level of accommodation. It is planned to open by early 2019. Aesthetically, textures and tones for the stone façade of the hotel have been carefully selected to blend in with the cliff face behind it. However, the steel cantilever Story Bridge, so important a symbol of Brisbane, will rightly remain the prime visual focus of this iconic new site being developed right on the riverfront. The site is planned so that most of the cliffs can be seen from the river.
There will be function spaces for up to 1000 guests, walkways, a cycle path with 50 public bicycle spaces and 33 employer bike spaces, and attractive gardens. Improved lighting and CCTV will ensure better public safety. A new underground car park with 359 spaces is to be opened late in 2018. A significant emphasis will be on food and beverages. There are to be restaurants attracting talented and adventurous new chefs such as a new Greek restaurant and Toko Brisbane, a new restaurant/bar with event spaces serving Japanese cuisine. There is an on-site brewery called Felons Brewery after the four convicts who were the first Europeans to discover the Brisbane River. Also, local roasted coffee is an attraction along with on-site baking of hand-made specialist breads.
Access to the precinct is being facilitated by lifts. It is the last of the wharf areas of Brisbane to be developed, adding further enhancement to the development of Brisbane as a stunning New-World city.