A $1 billion plan for a private consortium to redevelop the old Royal Adelaide Hospital has been dumped, with the South Australian government announcing it will take full control of the centrally located, seven-hectare site.
The government announced alternative plans for the now-vacant hospital precinct on Tuesday, which will prioritize public space and see the residential component of the project significantly downsized.
With architecture and urban design led by Hassell and landscape architecture led by Oxigen, the dumped design included more than 1,000 apartments, two hectares of gardens and an “innovation hub” servicing a number of universities.
The consortium who would have led the project, made up of South Australian property group Commercial and General and infrastructure and property company John Holland, was announced as the government’s preferred proponent in November 2016.
Premier Jay Weatherill said on Tuesday that while the government had been in exclusive negotiations with the preferred proponent, the final offer was rejected because it did not offer the best value for taxpayers.
“The old Royal Adelaide Hospital site is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in the heart of one of the world’s most liveable cities, so it’s critical that the redevelopment delivers a first class result for all South Australians,” he said.
“We don’t want to see this vital piece of our city fenced off for years to come and left to the market to dictate what happens and when. By maintaining control over the old Royal Adelaide Hospital site we will ensure that the interests of South Australians are paramount rather than the interests of private developers.”
According to a statement released by the government the size and scale of planned residential development on the site will be “substantially reduced,” and the private leaseholds proposed by Commercial and General and John Holland will be removed.
Instead there will be a focus on student accommodation, aged care living and short term accommodation.
The government is also proposing a new minimum 5-star hotel and a new art gallery, the Adelaide Contemporary gallery, and will soon launch an international search for a design team to lead the gallery project.
Two hectares of the site will be returned to the adjacent Botanic Gardens, with the government to immediately commence the procurement process for a landscape architect to design the integration of the land with the gardens.
Under the new development model, full control over each stage of the project will remain in public hands.
The government employed a similar development model in the ongoing remediation and redevelopment of the old Clipsal factory and Origin gas site in the inner-north suburb of Bowden as a residential precinct. It also took control of the transformation of the former Mitsubishi site in Adelaide’s south into an “innovation precinct.”
The old Royal Adelaide Hospital site is located on the northern edge of Adelaide’s CBD and is bound by Adelaide Botanic Garden to the east, and the University of Adelaide and University of South Australia to the west.
The potential use of the premium site has been a hotly contested issue since the Labor government, then led by Mike Rann, announced a new Royal Adelaide Hospital would be built in the city’s west end in 2007. Various plans for the site have been raised and then dumped by successive Labor governments, including a master plan developed by former Commissioner for Integrated Design Tim Horton and a design by Slash and Phillips/Pilkington Architects, incorporating a school, a gallery and student accommodation, which won a design competition in 2013.
In the lead up to the 2014 election the Liberal opposition, led by Stephen Marshall, pledged to develop the site into a private hospital.
Stephen Marshall slammed the government’s latest move on Tuesday, saying it was an indictment of Labor’s ability to deliver major urban renewal projects.
“The South Australian public has been promised a myriad of different developments on the seven-hectare site by Labor,” he said. “The seven-hectare site will only fulfil its rich potential with the right mixture of integrated commercial and cultural developments.”
The dumped private consortium, Commercial and General and John Holland, said it had invested significant resources in the hospital’s development and was “extremely disappointed” with the government’s decision, according to media reports.
The government has indicated that it will consider purchasing the intellectual property of the consortium’s work on the development.
The new Royal Adelaide Hospital, designed by Silver Thomas Hanley in joint venture with Design Inc, opened its doors on September 4, while its predecessor farewelled its last patient on 6 September.
Hoardings have been erected around the East Wing building, which will be one of the first to be demolished when works starts “within weeks,” according to the government.