The ACT Government’s City to the Lake project is set to transform the bush capital and attract international business events with a new, world-class convention and exhibition centre.

One of the largest urban renewal projects in Australia, the 70-hectare City to the Lake project will extend Canberra’s city centre towards Lake Burley Griffin to create a new public waterfront at West Basin and build up surrounding business and lifestyle precincts by 2030.

A hotel development, convention facilities, multi-purpose stadium, as well as office, residential and retail space also form key elements of the expansion project and are billed to become a major entertainment destination for the capital.

Incorporating the proposed Capital Metro light rail with plans to lower Parkes Way (between Edinburgh Avenue and Coranderrk Street) and create a pedestrian-friendly ‘smart boulevard’, the project will dramatically increase access between the city centre, the lake and the Parliamentary zone, and major educational and cultural institutions.

The waterfront will be anchored by a new lakeside aquatic facility and urban beach, which will act as a place for events and festivals.

The proposed Australia Forum convention and exhibition centre, together with a new 30,000-seat stadium, will attract further tourism and investment to the region and significantly increase the bureau’s competitive edge when bidding for national and international events.

Canberra Convention Bureau chief executive, Robyn Hendry, said the capital needs greater infrastructure to attract high-level events.

“We’re very excited about having more capacity to attract larger events.

“The plan is to keep the National Convention Centre operating at its optimum right up until the new facility is ready and once the Australia Forum convention centre and hotel are operational we plan to triple the size of the business event markets for Canberra within a few short years.

“Apart from the immediate economic benefits, the ceremonial role of Canberra as the national capital will also be better served by the new facilities.

“The Australia Forum convention centre will include a ‘Centre for Dialog’ as part of its offering and this will be the only facility of this type in Australia,” Ms Hendry said.

Thus far the proposed convention centre has failed to win federal government funding, but the ACT government recently attributed $1.5 million towards the project. This funding will pay for a comprehensive business case and is linked to a further $8 million that has been reserved for the project in budget’s out years.

However, foreign investment will be vital in ensuring the project gets off the ground and the ACT government is currently calling for expressions of interest to advance the project to investment-ready stage.

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