University of Tasmania makes call on city move

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University of Tasmania Vice-Chancellor Rufus Black with plans around the UTAS move into Hobart CBD. Picture: RICHARD JUPE

IN a move destined to change the Hobart CBD forever, the University of Tasmania will move away from its Sandy Bay campus and consolidate its future in the city.

The game-changing plan will see UTAS develop a city-centric campus in the heart of Hobart during the next 10 to 15 years.

It will cost the university $600 million to build its new campus.

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The campus will run from the original home of the university at the Domain, along Melville St.

At the heart of the inner-city campus will be a new central library and public square at the former Webster building and carpark bounded by Melville, Argyle and Bathurst streets.

In a relief to many, the university will also enter an agreement with Hobart City Council to pay general rates on all its existing and future inner-city buildings for the next decade.

The decision was announced late on Friday afternoon after a meeting of the UTAS Council in Burnie.

The University of Tasmania’s Sandy Bay campus.

University Chancellor Michael Field said the university had decided on a long-term strategic direction to shift to the city.

“This will be a long, thorough and deliberative process.

“We will consult carefully along the way to produce a campus which is a source of great pride for both our university community and the people of greater Hobart.”

UTAS will act as steward for the existing Sandy Bay campus land into the future.

In reaching its decision, the university weighed up two broad directions: the

city-centric approach and a distributed model.

The distributed model would have cost the university $575 million under which ageing Sandy Bay operations would be redesigned and rebuilt in a smaller footprint on the lower part of the existing campus.

Two-thirds of the Sandy Bay buildings need replacement because of poor ratings for “building condition and functionality”, according to university documents.

UTAS will retain ownership of the Sandy Bay campus and has plans for its future too.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Rufus Black said it would invest in the Sandy Bay campus as a home for its students for the next decade.

“In the long term, it will stay as the home for our sporting facilities, accommodation and specialist research facilities.

“We will develop it over the long run so it has an appropriate mix of institutions, housing and preserves the green spaces.”

A map showing the proposed new University of Tasmania precincts.

Professor Black said a critical factor in its decision was allowing students living across New Norfolk, Brighton/Bridgewater, Midway Point, Glenorchy and Huonville better access to the uni.

“University council members saw that as very important,” he said.

“It’s critical that more Tasmanians have access to higher education at all stages of life,”

The university already owns a significant amount of real estate in central Hobart.

In the past four years, the uni has spent almost $80 million across properties on Argyle St and Melville St, the former Forestry building and the MidCity, Fountainside and Theatre Royal hotels.

It has its media school, medicine school, a future performing arts centre and the School of Nursing and Midwifery in the Hobart city precinct.

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Professor Black says a city campus would enhance the Hobart CBD and be great for city businesses.

“It will bring a large number of people into the city for a 24/7 period,” he said.

“I think it will help the city sustain and grow.”

Reactions have been largely positive to the move.

Hobart Lord Mayor Anna Reynolds welcomed the news, in particular the university’s 10-year commitment to pay general rates for all its inner-city properties.

“It provides the council and Hobart community confidence that the university is going to pay its way investing in public infrastructure that will be needed to support this move into the city,” she said.

“As Lord Mayor I have discussed with Vice-Chancellor Black the need for a clear agreement on city planning and the adequate funding of infrastructure, so I welcome his comments.

“It is important that we continue to work together to meet the future requirements of the city.”

Hobart Lord Mayor Anna Reynolds has welcomed UTAS’s proposed move and its commitment to pay general rates. Picture: PATRICK GEE

Professor Black said the University would now consult with stakeholders to help inform its detailed masterplanning and building design.

“Our first step on this journey will be to pause, to listen to our Aboriginal community and ensure our new campus honours the values and history of our first people,” Professor Black said.

Professor Black said concerns surrounding traffic management, parking and access to family services such as child care would be addressed.

Tasmania University Union state council president Sharifah Zaliah Syed-Rohan called on UTAS to continue to consult with students.

“This consultation must be student-centric and sincerely reflect the diverse perspectives and needs of our student body,” she said.

“We believe that the new facilities must be purpose-built to ensure that our students are able to work and study in an environment that facilitates their development and educational demands.”

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