A BILLION dollars in development activity was on the line as Westfield was quietly threatening to withdraw its commitment to build the Coomera Town Centre all because of two heavily congested roundabouts off the M1.
However, news today that a $74.7 million upgrade of Exit 54 is set to proceed has buoyed expectations that Westfield could make a start to one of the Gold Coast's largest retail complexes as early as this year.
Westfield, which has committed $17.3 million to the cost of the upgrade, is remaining tight-lipped on its intentions for the town centre project, issuing a short statement to Gold Coast Business News.
"We're really pleased to be working with the government on Coomera Town Centre - the construction of the Exit 54 upgrade has unlocked a key element to this project and we look forward to moving things forward on the development," says a company spokesman.
While the spokesman does not give a timetable for construction, Westfield has previously described the upgrade as the final hurdle to development of the $500 million first stage of the town centre to be developed adjacent to the Coomera railway station.
Privately, the shopping centre giant has threatened to withdraw its proposal and park its money elsewhere should the roadwork be delayed any longer.
The State Government today finally sealed the deal by announcing funding had been secured from all parties and that the Exit 54 upgrade will proceed by the end of this year.
On top of Westfield's contribution, the State Government is putting up $47.4 million for the project, while the Federal Government is stumping up $10 million.
The current intersection, built 15 years ago, has been battling to cope with traffic growth in the region and often chokes at peak periods from school and Dreamworld traffic.
The upgrade will replace heavily congested roundabouts on the east and west of the M1 with signalled intersections.
A new loop ramp for northbound motorists is proposed to connect to the Coomera Town Centre to ease congestion further. The southbound off-ramp is being realigned to intersect with the Old Pacific Highway service road.
Main Roads and Road Safety Minister Mark Bailey says the new interchange will incorporate a new three-lane overpass to the north of the existing bridge over the Pacific Motorway to ease congestion for east bound traffic.
Warren Truss, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development, says construction will start at the end of this year after design work has been finalised in the next few months.
"The announcement today of the funding partnership between the federal and state governments, along with the developers of the Coomera Town Centre, will see work commence on reducing congestion through this busy interchange," says Truss.
"Final design work is expected to be completed in the coming months, with construction to start soon after. All going to plan, the upgrade will be completed in late 2016, in time for the opening of the new Coomera Town Centre."
Truss was not the only politician to hint at an imminent start to the Coomera Town Centre.
Main Roads and Road Safety Minister Mark Bailey also says that, weather permitting, "the road upgrade should be completed by the end of 2016, in time for Westfield's planned opening of its new Coomera Town Centre".
Development of the Coomera Town Centre is expected to trigger $1 billion in works around the rail station precinct, including the first stage of the retail centre.
The master plan for the town centre spreads across 680 hectares and includes 25,000 new homes to house an estimated 50,000 people.
The government says the Westfield retail centre alone is likely to create 1200 jobs during construction and 3300 permanent jobs on completion.
Although final plans have not been officially revealed, Coomera Town Centre is expected to be the Gold Coast's third-largest retail complexes, behind Pacific Fair and Robina Town Centre, when completed.
Meanwhile, Federal Member for Forde Bert van Manen says the intersection upgrade will be "a welcome boost for jobs and community life in the local area".
"This is the single biggest issue for local residents and businesses alike and I am very pleased to see this project now progressing," he says.
Help us deliver quality journalism to you.
As a free and independent news site providing daily updates
during a period of unprecedented challenges for businesses everywhere
we call on your support