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City of Launceston launches plans for $90 million arts hub

City of Launceston launches plans for $90 million arts hub
June 16, 2020

Two high profile sites in Launceston’s CBD are to be redeveloped into a $90 million creative precinct, bus interchange and undercover arcade.

Part of the Council’s Launceston City Heart Project, a vacant retail building it purchased will become a ground-level arcade and public thoroughfare linking the Brisbane Street Mall to the proposed bus interchange.

The site will be developed by the New Creative Group - comprised of education institute Foundry, design agency For the People and newly-incorporated developer Creative Property Holdings - to turn it into a $90 million mixed-use creative precinct.

With Tasmania’s cultural sector impacted by event cancellations and venue closures, the Launceston-based group recently received $10 million in Federal Government funding under the Building Better Regions Fund.

City of Launceston Mayor Albert van Zetten said that a business case has been developed to assess the future of the site, which had determined the site, formerly occupied by the Birchalls bookstore, was unlikely to be redeveloped without public intervention.

Mayor van Zetten stated “we saw a similar situation with the CH Smith building in Charles Street, and the redevelopment of that site has been a great success, particularly given its derelict status for so many decades.

“We now have a model for that kind of project, partnering with other stakeholders to redevelop sites that may otherwise face significant hurdles, and we see a significant opportunity for us to apply a similar model to the Birchalls site.

“There are a number of potential uses for this site above the ground floor including a restaurant, commercial office space - of which there is a known shortage in Launceston - or it could be used for student accommodation or inner-city residential.

“Of course, it is intended to retain and make a feature of the building's significant heritage façade and the council intends to on-sell this building once it has been redeveloped.”

The creative precinct plans by Hassell and Cumulus Studio showed modern building and streetscape which would house a education facility, a virtual and augmented reality enterprise, commercial offices, food premises, retail and student accommodation.

Construction is expected to commence in 2021, with staged openings throughout late 2022 through until quarter four of 2023.

New Creative Group Managing Director Chris Billing said the development would help the city become a new creative and digital hub, advising “it is an exciting time for Launceston, as we work towards a creative vision that will drive an influx of fresh space and new thinking, helping us build our local economy and foster internationally-recognised education.”

Images: Architects concepts for Launceston’s new creative precinct (top) and the historic Birchalls bookstore, once Australia's oldest book shop, which closed in 2017 after 173 years (below). Images supplied.

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