A 29-level office tower, three-storey retail complex and 35 new restaurants, cafes and bars are part of a plan to transform and activate the long-dormant Festival Plaza (previously Hajek Plaza) outside Adelaide Festival Centre.

Sydney-based developer Walker Corporation announced the plans in a press conference today alongside Premier Steven Marshall and Vice-Chancellor Colin Stirling of Flinders University, whose new city campus will be a key tenant of the new tower.

“From the moment I laid eyes on that tired, forgotten plaza I knew we were going to create something incredible and that vision is becoming reality,” Walker Corporation executive chairman Lang Walker said in a statement.

“Festival Plaza will be activated like never before into a buzzing mixed-use precinct with beautiful restaurants and shops, surrounded by open space for the SA Government to bid for big events like professional tennis tournaments, wine expos, cycling events, concerts, markets, firework spectaculars and even a place to start and finish a V8 or Formula One street race."

It's being billed as Adelaide’s answer to the bustling Southbank promenades in Melbourne and Brisbane and will include a large interactive water feature, refurbished artworks from the original Hajek Plaza, establishing trees, and a series of 4.8-metre-high architecturally-designed arbours.

The tower was first approved by the state’s planning body in 2016, after Walker Corporation received exclusive development rights for the precinct in 2012, the Advertiser reports. Several design changes and delays followed, before the latest plans were approved by the State Commission Assessment Panel (SCAP) in November 2020. Walker Corporation is committing $450 million to the transformation, while the state government is contributing $213 million.

The tower would become one of Adelaide’s greenest buildings, a spokesperson from Walker Corporation told the Advertiser, and would be the city’s tallest “all-electric” office building. It's expected to have a 5 Star Green Star rating.

In a statement, the company said its vision has always been for Festival Plaza to "rival some of the greatest square’s in the world, like Spain’s Plaça de Catalunya or Italy’s Piazza del Campo".

“Now we have finally been given the green light our team is bringing a renaissance to the Riverbank; this is the revival of Adelaide’s central meeting spot where you can also watch a musical direct from Broadway at the Playhouse or see the latest art installation at the Festival Centre.”

More than 4000 workers are expected to call Festival Tower home from the end of 2023, and the public square is expected to open in January in time for Adelaide's 2022 festival season. The development is part of a huge transformation of the precinct, alongside the revitalisation of SkyCity Casino, Adelaide Festival Centre, Adelaide Oval and Adelaide Railway Station.