Townsville residents and tourists have a new community space from which to take in breathtaking views of the Cleveland Bay, Mount Stuart and the city’s western suburbs. 

The new space has been created on the former Panorama House site near the summit of Castle Hill.

It was delivered in partnership with the Australian Government’s Building Better Regions Fund (BBRF), which has provided half the funding, with Council providing the remainder. 

Mayor Jenny Hill said plans for the space had changed since Council first announced plans to develop the site.

“Since the release of its Castle Hill masterplan, Council has been working to develop an exciting new space for locals and tourists to enjoy on the former Panorama House site,” Cr Hill said. 

“In late-2019, Council called for tenders from local businesses to build a venue for food and beverage operators with open space for visitors to enjoy the view while eating. 

“None of the tenders received could deliver what Council had originally envisioned for the site within the budget available.

“Castle Hill is one of our premier natural assets and we wanted to make the most of that, but the very nature of this location made any construction on the site a bit more complex and expensive.”

In early-2020 Council conducted a pilot project to test the popularity of having a food operator at the Castle Hill summit by allowing a food van to trade as opposed to a fixed business. 

The idea proved very popular with locals and visitors using the hill, with calls for more food truck operators to also be allowed to trade in the area. 

“Considering this feedback, and the need to ensure that we could deliver a flexible and viable space that maximises the experience for visitors within the available budget, Council revised its plans,” Cr Hill said.

“This new space will accommodate food trucks and will include two covered viewing platforms as well as a grassed area and access stairs and ramp.”  

The space was created by JMAC Constructions, with construction supporting around 15 jobs.

Considerable site rehabilitation was required before the new space could be constructed, with around 400 tonnes of concrete waste removed from the site. The nearby carpark has also been refurbished as part of the project.

Federal Member for Herbert Phillip Thompson said he was looking forward to seeing how the space would be used.

“While it may not be what was originally envisioned for the area, this will allow multiple different businesses to use the site simultaneously and provide a more wide-ranging offering,” he said. 

“Our Building Better Regions Fund was created to drive economic growth and build stronger regional communities and this project ticks both of those boxes. 

“BBRF funding has also helped council deliver other projects to activate Castle Hill.

“In total, $3.93 million was budgeted, with the Federal Government and Council contributing $1.965 million each to create the event space as well as to install permanent light infrastructure for the highly popular HALO event, and construct a new boardwalk-style pedestrian staircase on Walker Street connecting the hill with the CBD.

“These initiatives help us capitalise on of one of our city’s most recognisable assets, making Townsville an even better place to live for locals and providing other attractions to draw tourists to the region.”

Council Infrastructure Services committee chairperson Kurt Rehbein said the various projects were unlocking Castle Hill’s full potential.

“Castle Hill is a much-loved landmark in our city. Locals and tourists love visiting it to enjoy the spectacular views over the city, Magnetic Island and the Coral Sea,” Cr Rehbein said. 

“It is great to see this new, flexible space completed on the old Panorama House site and I am sure it will prove very popular with locals and visitors.”