Australia University of Tasmania releases plans to develop 2,500 homes, aged care, tourism precinct at Sandy Bay campus

23:27  19 october  2021
23:27  19 october  2021 Source:   abc.net.au

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The plan includes using the existing engineering and geology buildings for housing. (Supplied: University of Tasmania) © Provided by ABC NEWS The plan includes using the existing engineering and geology buildings for housing. (Supplied: University of Tasmania)

The University of Tasmania plans to commission the building of 2,500 homes on its Sandy Bay campus, as well as a tourism precinct and new sporting facilities, as part of its long-term plan to move off the suburban campus and into the Hobart CBD.

According to the university's draft concept master plan, the housing will be scattered throughout the campus and will include townhouses, mixed-use apartments and student accommodation as well as retirement and aged care living options.

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The campus will be divided into five major parts: lifestyle and sporting, an innovation and civic quarter, a learning precinct, a peri-urban neighbourhood, bushland reserve and a tourism precinct and residential area on Mount Nelson.

The learning precinct includes plans for a local primary or secondary school and new student accommodation, and will remain home to Christ and John Fisher colleges.

The plan also includes the creation of "vertical childcare" and an "Aboriginal land bridge" linking the precincts on either side of Churchill Avenue.

It makes reference to an e-bike or e-scooter scheme, autonomous buses, a "green footbridge" and the possibility of rock-climbing or zip-lining facilities as potential adventure tourism opportunities on site.

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27 existing buildings on the Sandy Bay site will be retained or re-purposed, including the Stanley Burbury Theatre, which will be used as a Community Arts Centre, and the Morris Miller Library, which will become an "innovation hub".

The old student union precinct, which is home to the Hobart Uni Bar, will be transformed into residential aged care and the engineering and geology buildings will be adapted for residential use.

The existing physics building will be re-purposed into an "education facility and makers space".

Christ College and the Arts Lecture Theatre are heritage listed.

According to the master plan, the redevelopment of the buildings will look to "protect, maintain, and where feasible enhance these buildings to enable their preservation and ongoing use."

"The aim of the plan is to be able to create a broad set of housing for Hobart as well as a wide range of community amenity blended together in a sustainable suburb," vice-chancellor Rufus Black said.

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"[For those who want] to be a part of a sustainable suburb with broad amenity for anyone interested in living in a low carbon future with high-quality community in a public space, this will be a wonderful spot to be," he said.

Aim to diversify income

The university has established a wholly-owned subsidiary, UTAS Properties Pty Ltd, to undertake future development of the Sandy Bay site, "to ensure the project did not distract the university from its core mission of teaching and research".

The university will act as the "master developer" for the site, working with individual developers to convert different aspects of the site.

UTAS vice-chancellor Rufus Black said the move would help the university become more financially sustainable.

"In a world with diminishing public funding for higher education, it's important that universities have a diversity of income sources," Professor Black said.

Crucially, the university will also use the Sandy Bay project to fund its move into the Hobart CBD.

"Students will have dramatically improved facilities [in the CBD] over the ones that they have today … far better teaching facilities, better laboratories, better library, better student facilities and then over the very long run, this income will support generations of students beyond these ones," he said.

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The move is also taking place against a backdrop of losses incurred due to the pandemic, including the absence of international students.

How will it work?

Professor Black said there would be parts of the campus that would end up being sold, and that some of the land would be managed through the sale of long leases — where the occupants are able to lease the land for decades at a time to businesses or residents, rather than allow them to purchase it.

It's not clear how much of the land the university intends to sell.

"There may be pieces that it makes sense to sell, but the aim is really to retain the greater majority of it in long-term ownership of the university," Professor Black said.

"We will remain the master developer of the site so we ensure that these values around sustainability and community access [are retained] … but as we deliver that, that will need to be done in partnership with people who share our values and want to develop this kind of very distinct and unique site," he said.

Rates will be paid to the Hobart City Council on any land that is re-developed.

Move hinges on planning approval

The Sandy Bay campus is subject to a planning overlay that prevents it from being used for purposes other than education.

In order for the university to go ahead with its plans, which include residential, commercial and other uses, the planning overlay needs to change.

In December 2019, the university lost a battle to re-zone the upper part of the Sandy Bay campus, but Professor Black said he was confident this would happen once the university's master plan for the site was complete.

The Hobart City Council will need to approve the amendment.

"What we have to do is that we make clear that we are paying close attention to their planning guidance for Hobart so that when they do make a decision, it's as likely as possible to be approved," Professor Black said.

The plan is now open for public feedback.

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