Our Heritage and Milestones
We live in an age of increasingly rapid change. Our aim is to not just keep pace with this change but to help lead it.
South Bank has a rich and interesting history that has seen it evolve from an early colonial port into the vibrant urban cultural precinct of today.
The Early Years
South Bank was originally a meeting place for the traditional landowners, the Turrbal and Yuggera people. The early 1840s saw it become the central focus point of early European settlement.
From 1850, the South Bank Precinct quickly established itself as the business heart of the fledgling city of Brisbane. Following the 1893 floods the central business district was relocated to higher ground on the north side of the river.
By 1930, South Bank had established itself as a bustling river port and industrial zone that was buzzing with markets, wharves, dance halls and theatres.
The years following World War II saw the decline of South Bank. The decision in 1977 by the Queensland Government to build the world class, architecturally impressive Performing Arts Centre on the riverfront alongside Victoria Bridge made little impact on the area's decline.
When it was selected as the site for World Expo '88 in 1984, South Bank had been reduced to a near-derelict port with a couple of old hotels and a handful of industrial buildings.
World Expo 88
The decision to stage World Expo 88 at South Bank proved to be an inspired one. This event was the prime catalyst for the resurrection of South Bank and the emergence of Brisbane as a vibrant, world class city.
In 1988, the eyes of the world were focused on South Bank as it hosted the hugely successful Brisbane World Exposition. The event showcased an almost continuous program of entertainment and events that sparked new life into the city and the South Bank Precinct.
World Expo 88 was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 30 April 1988. By the time Expo reached its conclusion six months later, over 18 million people had experienced Expo at South Bank. This number far exceeded the 8 million visitors it had been anticipated the event would attract.
South Bank Parklands
Following World Expo 88, the site was cleared of buildings apart from three heritage buildings and the Boardwalk. While the Queensland Government had intended to sell South Bank for commercial development after Expo 88, locals had realised its potential as a public space. Public lobbying saw 17 hectares of South Bank remain public parkland.
South Bank Corporation, a Queensland Government statutory corporation, was established under the South Bank Corporation Act 1989 to oversee the development and management of a new South Bank.
An international competition was held to find an innovative plan for its development and in 1992 the South Bank Parklands opened. The Parklands featured:
- a man-made beach and lagoon with CBD views
- garden and rainforest walks
- picnic and barbeque areas
- more than 20 restaurants and cafes
- paid tourist attractions
- cycling and pedestrian walkways
With more than 6.3 million people visiting the Parklands in the first year, it was obvious that South Bank Corporation had successfully achieved its vision of developing a precinct that would be embraced by the people of Brisbane and tourists alike.
Urban renewal of the South Bank precinct continued over the next three years, with the construction of:
- Rydges Hotel South Bank
- Queensland Conservatorium of Music
- Griffith University
- Park Avenue residential apartments
- Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre
Master Plan Redevelopment
South Bank Corporation's pivotal role as a place maker and manager saw the implementation of the 1997-2001 Master Plan Redevelopment.
Key objectives of the Master Plan were to:
- strengthen the precinct's identity
- diversify its offer to the public and business
- improve access and connectivity with surrounding areas.
The Master Plan saw the introduction of the Clem Jones Promenade, a revamp of Grey Street and the introduction of the iconic bougainvillea clad South Bank Arbour. Other major milestones were:
- the introduction of new berthing facilities, enabling improved access to the river
- the realignment and development of Grey Street into a vibrant retail and commercial strip
- the relocation of a high speed busway
- construction of the Goodwill Bridge, a dedicated pedestrian and cycle bridge connecting South Bank and the City
- the development of an underground carpark, cinema complex and the Queensland College of Art
South Bank's vision of uniting the precinct with the northern side of the river came to fruition in 2005, when the precinct was recognised as part of the city centre in Brisbane City Council's Draft City Centre Master Plan.