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Australia – ASF says Gold Coast casino blueprint won’t be affected by Beijing

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Plans unveiled last year by ASF Consortium for Australia’s latest A$3bn ($2.3bn) casino resort will be unaffected by a crackdown by the Chinese government on foreign companies looking to market casinos to VIP players in China.

Crown revealed last month that VIP turnover for its Australian resorts had been massively affected by China’s current stance and had dropped by 45 per cent in the last 23 weeks.

However, ASF, which is partnering with two state-owned Chinese companies to build the Gold Coast project, said it was confident that the project’s model would still work.

Louis Chien, Director of ASF, described the current problems, which saw 18 employees of Crown Resorts, Australia’s biggest casino operator, arrested for promoting casinos in China, as a ‘short-term blip.’
He added that the situation would ‘calm down’ saying the target was the ‘long-term Asian tourism boom.’

His project includes five- and six-star hotels, theatres, a beach club and a host of entertainment, alongside the casino which he describes as the ‘catalyst that makes the resort work.’
His comments came as ASF unveiled a Traffic and Transport Management Plan that will support the project, address traffic congestion and deliver legacy infrastructure for the city.

The plan, which consists of two stages, has involved consultation with the State Government, City of Gold Coast and The Department of Main Roads.

ASF Director Louis Chien said ASF has proposed a multi-faceted, flexible and scalable strategy that includes new and upgraded infrastructure whilst also encouraging public transport, walking and cycling as options for accessing The Spit.

“The first stage of the plan will support the delivery and ongoing operation of the Integrated Resort Development and will ease congestion in the area, whilst the strategy for the second stage looks to accommodate the future growth of the City’s traffic,” Mr Chien said.

“In addition to road and intersection upgrades, our proposed plan includes delivery of a bridge as a core piece of infrastructure, which has the potential to become an iconic legacy the City will truly be proud of,” he said.

Damien Bitzios, Director of Bitzios Consulting, a Gold Coast-based traffic engineering and transportation planning consultancy said the new bridge provides more capacity than what is required for the Integrated Resort and therefore benefits the broader Main Beach area.

Mr Bitzios has prepared traffic and transport infrastructure plans across Australia and internationally and has been involved in transportation planning on the Gold Coast for over 20 years. “The bridge will essentially split traffic by focusing north-oriented traffic to the new bridge and south-oriented traffic to Waterways Drive, reducing the bottle neck at the Waterways Drive and Gold Coast Highway intersection at peak times,” said Mr. Bitzios.

The bridge would be a second road bridge across the Nerang River in the area and is proposed to connect from near Ada Bell Way and from near Waterways Drive, just east of Main Beach.

“This location minimises the extent of traffic impacts and crossing distances whilst providing a connection that can be used by not only the Integrated Resort Development, but by other residents of Main Beach and Surfers Paradise as well as visitors to the broader Spit area,” Mr Bitzios said.
It is likely that the proposed bridge will accommodate buses and cars but also bikes and pedestrians to support the City of Gold Coast’s strategy of a more active city, complementing ASF’s focus on health and wellbeing for the Integrated Resort.

The first stage of the traffic management plan also includes many road and intersection upgrades at North Street, Waterways Drive, MacArthur Parade and Sea World Drive, whilst Stage Two would cater for future traffic growth in Main Beach and The Spit and includes road upgrades to the Gold Coast Highway and North Street.

“Our Stage Two Traffic Assessment was modeled taking in to account peak traffic times at The Spit and using future traffic growth estimated in accordance with City of Gold Coast’s City Plan,” Mr Bitzios said.

“Our modeling provided us with the confidence that ASF’s Transport and Traffic Management Plan is scalable and will provide more than enough capacity to accommodate the additional traffic generated by the Integrated Resort whilst improving existing traffic conditions,” he said.

Mr Bitzios said the proposed plan would deliver substantial accessibility benefits to local residents and Gold Coast visitors for quite some time.

“We believe the plan will improve a number of pinch points around Main Beach and the Broadwater, assist to manage congestion pressures well in to the future and provide walking and cycling infrastructure to encourage greater use of these modes of travel,” said Mr Bitzios.

“There’s also the option to include light rail, a ferry service in the Broadwater and a pedestrian link from Southport to the Broadwater Parklands within Stage Two,” he said.

“Reducing traffic off Waterways Drive compared to what it otherwise would have been, increases the potential for a light rail spur along that corridor” Mr Bitzios said.

The Gold Coast Integrated Resort’s current car park plan includes underground basement levels and provides more than adequate parking for a project of this scale.

ASF Director Louis Chien says in addition to ample parking, it would be of great benefit to also consider public transport options to and from the Integrated Resort, and a pedestrian link that provides a greater connection from the Southport CBD.

“This would allow people working in Southport CBD to easily access the Integrated Resort to meet friends and co-workers for a drink and dinner after work,” Mr Chien said.

“We believe our transport proposal is an excellent plan, however there are other possible options and ASF is committed to playing its part to assist with traffic management on The Spit,” he said.
Director of Queensland-based architects Jayson Blight Rayner, Michael Rayner said that designing a true people-orientated world-class coastal project is the result of bringing together an understanding of the community’s wants and their international experience.

“In approaching the Gold Coast Integrated Resort project we took on board the community’s interests in the Broadwater and The Spit, as well as the desires of international visitors,” Mr Rayner said. “Our view is that the Broadwater has great potential to become a public arena for water-based performances, sports and public art,” he said.

Blight Rayner’s design concept is focused around a great waterfront square that will open out to a 1,200 public seat Broadwater Amphitheatre.

“We believe the all-weather, semi-covered waterfront square will become the heart of Gold Coast public life,” Mr Rayner said. “The amphitheatre will offer tiered seating along the water’s edge where people can watch outdoor concerts, plays, digital performances and opera performances, much like the Sydney Opera House has done with the outside performance of Aida,” he said.

Framed by restaurants, cafes and bars, the square and amphitheatre will also be a hub for exploring many other amenities, including piers for fishing, pedestrian boardwalks, beaches and casual boat moorings.

Green space and tropical gardens will also feature prominently in the multi-billion dollar Integrated Resort.

“We’re focused on the integration of sustainable design, including elevated gardens and a canopy over the square that gives the effect of connecting the Broadwater across to Philip Park and the ocean,” Mr Rayner said.

“We are looking to create a project which both embodies the subtropical character of the Gold Coast and performs environmentally,” he said.

ASF Development Director Dean LaVigne said that the project vision is to deliver an internationally renowned Integrated Resort Development and a communal heart of the Gold Coast for all, local and international visitors alike, to enjoy.

“Our design brings together aspects of Eastern and Western cultures, for example in the use of the lotus flower as a pervasive universal symbol of wellness, harmony and balance,” Mr. LaVigne said.
“The architectural design embodies and enhances everything the Gold Coast stands for, relaxed outdoor lifestyle, lush subtropical landscape, dynamic entertainment, water leisure and healthy living,” he said.

“A focus on health and wellbeing is an important part, with a range of experiential destinations within the project including the Gold Coast’s first true beach club and a comprehensive medi-spa.
“The heart of the design scheme is developed around a public square to create a cultural centre for community gatherings such as sporting events, theatre, opera, art and holiday celebrations,” said Mr LaVigne.

The concept plan opens up a new precinct including nearly five football fields of public space to be enjoyed by all comprising streets, tiered gardens, beaches, waterfalls and promenades delivering a wide variety of experiences including swimming, fishing, waterfront dining or picnicking, walking, cycling, boating or feeding the ducks.

“The waterfront promenade will deliver a pleasurable stroll to the magnificent piazza and amphitheater with sweeping, unobstructed views of the Broadwater,” said Mr. Lavigne.

Mr LaVigne explains the project will have no impact on existing Broadwater activities and users can easily bypass the project to visit their favorite fishing spots.

“The project will open up many opportunities for local businesses and employment, as well as be a major stimulus for wider tourism and commercial benefits,” he said.

Attracting VIP Chinese players will remain critical to the project’s success as well as a host of other Australian projects totalling $10bn in investment.

S&P analyst Graeme Ferguson described the Asia Pacific as an ‘increasingly crowded marketplace for Chinese VIPs.’

Developers will have to convince investors that there is still plenty of VIP players to go round and also that Bejing’s current stance will calm if they are even to get financing of their project’s off the ground.

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