Newcastle is fast becoming THE Australian city investors should watch. The area is at the beginning of a renaissance that is slowly seeing this “Steel Town” pivot into a thriving business and education driven city. The removal of the train line through the CBD has allowed new development opportunities for the city and has removed the physical barrier between the CBD and the waterfront.
At the forefront of the change for Newcastle is the University of Newcastle which is expanding from the Callaghan Campus into the Newcastle CBD with a with a half-billion-dollar development for Honeysuckle that is quickly taking shape.
The university submitted a masterplan to the NSW Department of Planning in June last year across two hectares in Honeysuckle, which was acquired from the government in 2017.
The masterplan includes seven buildings in a staged development over 10 years.
Last week the university submitted a development application for stage one of its $95 million creative industries and innovation hub in the city’s central business district, following the successful delivery and opening of the $100 million law and business faculty building.
▲ The proposed building is the first part of a new, inner-city campus for the University of Newcastle in the Honeysuckle precinct, an area of former industrial land between the old railway and the waterfront. Image: EJE Architecture
The four-storey building, situated on the corner of Worth Place and Honeysuckle Drive, is the first development on three adjoining parcels of land fronting Honeysuckle Drive and on the former heavy rail corridor.
The building will house two groups, the Hunter Innovation Project Innovation Hub and the School of Creative Industries catering to entrepreneurs, start-ups, developers, technical specialists, business advisors, students and researchers.
The Innovation Hub, designed by local Newcastle architects EJE, features a distinctive cross-laminated timber frame, the first of its kind in the city.
The state government has backed the Stage 1A building, allocating $4.84 million in Restart NSW funds for the innovation hub, as part of the Hunter Infrastructure and Investment Fund.
The Masterplan bypasses Newcastle Council for approval with the NSW Independent Planning Commission assessing the proposal as a state-significant development. If approved, construction is set to commence on the site within a matter of months, with the completion date set for late 2020.
▲ The site is half way between the Honeysuckle and Civic Light Rail stops, benefitting from multiple public transport links. Image: EJE Architecture
Vice-chancellor of Newcastle University Alex Zelinsky, said the Honeysuckle City Campus Development would create a strong presence for the University in the Newcastle CBD, enhancing its positive civic, cultural and social impact in the region.
“The unveiling of the design for the first building on our Honeysuckle City Campus Development is a momentous step forward in our long-term vision to grow, develop knowledge and be a driver of an innovative regional economy.”
The vice-chancellor said while traditional manufacturing had been in decline, Newcastle was seeing growth in ‘high touch’ industries like health and social services.
“There is more opportunity to grow. In professional, technical and scientific services. That is, knowledge-intensive jobs that attract skilled professionals and drive new industries. And, in fintech, professional services, information media and communications.”
“We want to create the conditions that will allow this kind of economic diversity to flourish.”
The university has been bullish with its expansion plans after successfully completing the $95 million NeW Space building in central Newcastle and raising funds for the medical school and research institute in Gosford which is under construction and set to open in 2020.
There are also plans for a $149 million Gosford campus for the university.
On the supply side, Urban Taskforce’s Chris Johnson said the continued investment in education would help reactivate the historic centre of Newcastle and bolster its economy.
“The new law school has already shown how innovative architecture located adjacent to the light rail line adds important activation to the CBD.”
“While activating Newcastle’s centre is significant it is also important to ensure that the suburban areas also have new job and educational opportunities and it seems that the university is getting the balance right.”
The university also has plans in the pipeline for a $200 million expansion program for STEM faculties, funded entirely by the university.
The new faculty building will be located on the university’s main campus in Callaghan, north west of the city centre.
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