SUNLAND Group (ASX: SDG) has withdrawn its proposed twin-tower development on The Spit after the City of Gold Coast earlier this month announced it was deferring a decision on the controversial proposal for at least 12 months.
However, the Brisbane-based property developer has not given up its ambitions for a major development of the Mariner's Cove site, arguing that this is not the first time it has faced development challenges on the Gold Coast.
Sunland's $600 million plan for the Broadwater property had included the Gold Coast's first privately owned cultural precinct comprising a museum and art gallery.
However, the 44-storey residential and hotel towers that accompanied the proposal have been a point of controversy for the site which currently carries a three-storey height limit.
Sunland says its decision to withdraw the development proposal, known as The Mariner, was made in light of the State Government and city council's plans to proceed with a new master plan for The Spit.
The current master plan, which does not allow for any development north of Sea World, was created in 2002.
However, after canning the Broadwater cruise terminal last year, the Palaszczuk government has granted the proponent, the ASF Consortium, permission to explore options for an integrated casino resort on vacant state land south of Sea World. This project also received a mixed response when details were released earlier this month, largely due to the scale of the towers proposed.
Sunland chairman Soheil Abedian (pictured) says a master plan for The Spit would deliver the best outcome for the community and give clarity and unity for all stakeholders.
"The Spit is a unique commercial, residential and recreational precinct and the state government and council need to work together, in consultation with the community and all stakeholders, to agree on a clear path forward," he says.
"We feel it is important the master planning process is unencumbered, without any perceived time pressures from existing development applications.
"For this reason we are withdrawing our development application for The Mariner until such time that a master plan for the precinct can be agreed upon."
The Mariner, which incorporated floating parklands and an underground aquarium, was one of the last design work created by award-winning architect the late Dame Zaha Hadid.
Abedian, who highlighted the economic strengths of the proposal, including the creation of 1000 permanent jobs and expectations that it could attract an extra 500,000 visitors to the Gold Coast each year, says the decision to withdraw the development application does not spell an end to the company's ambitions for the landmark site.
"Sunland's history is deeply entwined in the built form of the Gold Coast and this is not the first time we have faced adversity when presenting a world-class landmark," he says.
"Q1 was met with similar challenges, yet today it remains an icon of our city and stands proudly at the centre of the emblem of the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
"The Mariner continues our commitment to the city and its evolution into a global destination with the opportunity for world-class entertainment, cultural and tourism amenity.
"To realise this opportunity, there must be a master plan that benefits the city and its more than 600,000 residents - a master plan that balances the natural elements of The Spit with community open space and iconic architecture that celebrates our distinctly Gold Coast lifestyle and contributes towards the enrichment of the urban fabric of our community.
"It is our ardent hope that the state government and council, upon completion of the master plan, allow projects such as The Mariner to have a place for the future of our city."
Gold Coast Planning Committee chairman Cameron Caldwell expressed disappointment that Sunland withdrew its application for The Mariner, but he says it clears the decks for a full review of land uses for The Spit.
"We didn't want to throw this opportunity away," he says. "It is with some degree of a heavy heart that I see this (project) withdrawn by Sunland. If there is something good to come of it, it is that we must now focus on the future of The Spit.
While Caldwell would not foreshadow what those changes might entail, he left open the possibility that changes to height limits could be on the table under the review.
He says Sunland will be free to resubmit an application once that review is completed.
Sunland shares are trading up 1.92 per cent at $1.56 each this afternoon.
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