PCOA conference delegates were treated to a sneak preview of an iconic new Brisbane event space in late 2016 – the first major event hosted by Howard Smith Wharves.

The cocktail event for 400 took place in a soon-to-be-restored waterfront warehouse. Howard Smith Wharves is a historic precinct on the Brisbane River which will undergo major redevelopment for a 2018 opening. It is a remarkable location, on a bend in the river looking across the CBD, the site framed by spectacular cliffs and the 1935 Story Bridge towering overhead.

A youthful Brisbane consortium is transforming the entire 34,000 square metre site – not just the historic warehouses, but the entire precinct. It will include a 1000 seat event and exhibition space, four other event spaces nestled among the cliffs, an outdoor amphitheatre and 2.7 hectares of public space.

The existing warehouses will contain event space, hand-picked restaurants operated by some renowned Australian operators, and a new craft brewery. The site will also include a new 164 room, five-star Art Series hotel.

The Howard Smith Wharves consortium has been responsible for out-of-the-ordinary boutique developments such as Cabarita’s Halcyon House, featured on numerous global magazine hot lists and perhaps Australia’s most Instagrammed hotel. The developers place a high priority on unique, sustainable experiences and taking long-term responsibility for the site.

The project’s development director, Luke Fraser, says this is not about developing a site and selling out.

“This is about giving the rest of our lives to creating something we can truly believe in,” he said.

“Between us we have 21 children, [and] we have an overwhelming desire to leave them with an environment and planet that is in better condition than it is today.”

The team is working to create sustainable energy sources and waste recycling options that will eventually make the site zero waste. It will have a permaculture program with growing gardens, bee hives and an edible landscape contributing to the many food and beverage elements that are being made on-site.

“The beer will be so fresh that it’s never touched air, with the lines run straight from the brewery to the event space. The coffee beans will be roasted on-site, and the dinner rolls baked in the on-site bakery,” Fraser said.

The site resonates strongly with Brisbane’s history. Much of the CBD’s roads and kerbs were built from rock dug from the site. Since the 1880’s the site was a focal point of the city’s maritime trade and ship repair. It helped protect the city in World War II, with five air raid shelters on the site. More recently it was the long-term headquarters of Brisbane’s Water Police.

A highlight of the presentations on the evening was a pixel-mapped projection show from Scene Change, the AV sponsor of the event, which made the entire wall behind the stage “fall away” to reveal video views of the precinct’s history and how it will look when fully developed.

The site has already attracted strong interest from meeting organisers, drawn to the remarkable views, the diverse event spaces and the location’s ability to integrate the Brisbane outdoor lifestyle into any event.

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