Former ANU residential hall to be repurposed as non-student accommodation

Lottie Twyford 19 September 2021 34
Gowrie Hall at ANU

Previously known as Fenner Hall, Gowrie Hall will now become the Canberra Accommodation Centre. Photo: Google Maps.

A former ANU residential hall is set to become non-student accommodation run by an independent, commercial third party.

The building on Northbourne Avenue was previously known as Fenner Hall, before being renamed as Gowrie Hall after students were moved to a new on-campus building – also named Fenner Hall – in the heart of the new Kambri development.

It’s currently unclear who will operate the new building and under what conditions.

An ANU spokesperson said while the third party will invest in the site and refurbish it to ensure it is fit for accommodation purposes, “the university does not detail commercial in-confidence arrangements with third-party providers”.

“Any such arrangement will be consistent with the lease ANU has with the Commonwealth for the site,” said the spokesperson.

The ANU student newspaper, Woroni, is reporting that the building will become the ‘Canberra Accommodation Centre’, and offer both short- and long-term rooms, as well as fully serviced hotel rooms.


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In 2019, the reason given for moving Fenner Hall residents on campus was that the maintenance costs of the building had simply become too high for it to remain viable.

Residents of ‘old Fenner Hall’ had reported the dilapidated state of the building as being a concern.

ANU executive director of administration and planning Chris Grange estimated at the time that a minimum of $12 million of works would be required on the building during a two-year period.

At the time, students’ reaction to the move was mixed, with many worried that the hall would lose its specific, individual culture, while others were concerned about rent increases.

The ANU spokesperson said the new Fenner Hall provides “students with high-quality and affordable residential accommodation that gives them easy access to our safe and vibrant campus community and environment”.


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Throughout 2019 and 2020, old Fenner Hall was renamed Gowrie Hall and used to house first-year postgraduate students. While the hall was never intended to be used as accommodation again, a spokesperson for the university said the demand for accommodation throughout these two years had outstripped available supply on campus.

Minimal refurbishments and adjustments were made to the building in order to allow this to happen.

The building was used as a temporary measure to meet student overflow, and according to the spokesperson, was done at the request of students.

The ANU Postgraduate and Research Student Association (PARSA) has long advocated for more affordable on-campus housing for postgraduate students, and pushed for the use of old Fenner Hall to help fill this gap.

In 2021, the ANU spokesperson said the university has experienced a decline in demand for housing so moved to identify a suitable alternative usage for the hall.

The building itself was originally built as accommodation for single public servants and was acquired by the ANU in 1992.


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34 Responses to Former ANU residential hall to be repurposed as non-student accommodation
Judy Geary Judy Geary 8:47 pm 23 Sep 21

Housing for the homeless? Wishing.

Ashley Hillstead Ashley Hillstead 8:43 pm 21 Sep 21

I wonder if it's still roach infested 🤔

Connie Schaefer Connie Schaefer 6:25 pm 21 Sep 21

Joe, they're repurposing Fenner Hall. Ahhhhhh, the memories of 'kidnapping' you that night with Joan and Stephanie . . . . 😂😂

Ashlee Betteridge Ashlee Betteridge 9:11 pm 20 Sep 21

Oh so they are turning it into a quarantine facility? Which could then be reconverted back to privately operated student accommodation or group travel accommodation once the pandemic has passed?

Robert Steensby Robert Steensby 8:47 pm 20 Sep 21

i got a public service job in canberra in 1978 november :: a room in gowrie private hotel was arranged for me :: 4th floor :: northboune end :: stayed about 12 months ? :: bathroom in the hall :: cafeteria :: fun times , new friends

Ilise Girvan Ilise Girvan 8:36 pm 20 Sep 21

Makes sense

Liane Degville Liane Degville 8:30 pm 20 Sep 21

I lived there when it was Gowrie in '84 for 6 months. Some people were a bit suss but I met a lovely group of people. There was a bar at the interstate bus station opposite and it was very handy to catch the 5am bus to the ski fields. I remember our little group very fondly.

whatwik whatwik 7:39 pm 20 Sep 21

One of the characters who was a long term resident at the Macquarie was the late old school journo, Footscray and King O’Malley fanatic, Larry Noye who wrote a biography of the latter (with whom he shared an aversion to ‘stagger juice’), which despite the author’s partisanship is not a bad read, even if he chose not to divulge his sources.

https://maribyrnonghobsonsbay.starweekly.com.au/classifieds/1798436-obituary-colourful-chronicler-larry-noye/

    Peter Graves Peter Graves 9:58 am 21 Sep 21

    It’s slightly off-topic, but Larry Noye did write the definitive biography of King O’Malley.

    To whom we owe a great debt for choosing Walter Burley Griffin’s as the winning design for Canberra, and ensuring he was brought to the Federal Capital Territory to implement it. The bureaucrats of that time had made up their own plan, based on a mixture of the all the entries.

    O’Malley returned as the Minister for Home Affairs (a very different portfolio, then), over-rode them and said Giffin’s was the one.

Frank Waters Frank Waters 6:12 pm 20 Sep 21

I lived there in 88. It was used to house public servants in 70s. I thought students needed more accommodation?

Peter Graves Peter Graves 5:10 pm 20 Sep 21

Some very interesting memories here. Anyone’s go back as far as Reid House, Barton House (which wasn’t a Government one), Hotel Kurrajong (when it was ), Acton House, Gorman House ? ?

Emily Grace Emily Grace 4:52 pm 20 Sep 21

There was also a little girl on a school excursion murdered there in the late 70s . Very sad . The place probably needs a complete overhaul or maybe it should be knocked down.

Steve Herczeg Steve Herczeg 2:54 pm 20 Sep 21

Amazing how short the city's memory is. Gowrie Hostel was such a depressing place for new public servants to stay in when they first touched down in Canberra. I think they had someone go off the top floor at least once every few months.

You had a great choice in the cafe of "meat" with chips and gravy.

And two TV rooms showing one of the three stations.

    Mike l'Pirate Mike l'Pirate 4:31 pm 20 Sep 21

    Steve Herczeg I lasted a week in Macquarie 😐

    Steve Herczeg Steve Herczeg 4:52 pm 20 Sep 21

    I had absolutely no money, ended up staying in Gowrie for six weeks. Then fled with a couple of mates.

    Mike l'Pirate Mike l'Pirate 4:54 pm 20 Sep 21

    Steve Herczeg Got our as fast as I could. Some of the permanent residents were scary!

    Steve Herczeg Steve Herczeg 4:59 pm 20 Sep 21

    There was that too!! Some of the workers were scary.

    Gabriel Spacca Gabriel Spacca 8:29 pm 20 Sep 21

    Steve Herczeg That’s the problem with you young people. No stamina.

    Steve Herczeg Steve Herczeg 9:07 pm 20 Sep 21

    How long did you last at Macquarie?

    Steve Herczeg Steve Herczeg 9:08 pm 20 Sep 21

    As I said above. I was absolutely broke. Arrived in Canberra with $150 to my name, was living pay to pay until I got on my feet.

    Gabriel Spacca Gabriel Spacca 9:16 pm 20 Sep 21

    Steve Herczeg 6 months. But that’s because a) I was a glutton for punishment, and b) I’m antisocial and didn’t want to move into a group house.

Margaret Lay Margaret Lay 2:39 pm 20 Sep 21

It was that previously for many years known as Gowrie Hostel to UNI accomodation!

    Gary J Potts Gary J Potts 10:25 pm 20 Sep 21

    Margaret Lay It was Gowrie Private Hotel, and was one of places for newly arrived APS staff.

    Margaret Lay Margaret Lay 8:12 am 21 Sep 21

    Gary J Potts I actually remember the local Dr Dr Potts any relation?

Tom Worthington Tom Worthington 2:38 pm 20 Sep 21

Fond memories of the old Gowrie Hostel, where I was put up as a new public servant in the early 1980s. We all congregated to watch Dr Who in the TV room on the top floor once a week. Hopefully the horribly inefficient heating system has been upgraded since then.

Fortress Epiphany Fortress Epiphany 2:32 pm 20 Sep 21

First place I stayed after moving to Canberra 1989.

Jane Kim Jane Kim 1:01 pm 20 Sep 21

So it's returning to its original use.....

Steve Lade Steve Lade 12:09 pm 20 Sep 21

Hope the cockroaches aren't there any more... terrible infestation in the central kitchen when I lived there approx 15 years ago

Chris Thomson Chris Thomson 11:07 am 20 Sep 21

Is this different way of saying another apartment block on Northborne Ave?

Warwick Bradly Warwick Bradly 10:58 am 20 Sep 21

It was Gowrie Hostel when I moved to Canberra in 1982 and stayed in it for a short while.

    Mark Heinrich Mark Heinrich 5:50 pm 20 Sep 21

    Warwick Bradly - I stayed at Macquarie Hostel when I first came to Canberra in 1984. ‘Live-in’ officers were normally quartered in Brassey House but there were no rooms available.

Peter Graves Peter Graves 10:49 am 20 Sep 21

The former Fenner Hall was indeed a former hostel for public servants (Gowrie Hostel) – operated by the late Commonwealth Accommodation and Catering Company, which also operated the former Macquarie Hotel and Lawley House in Barton, plus others around Canberra. A unique part of Canberra’s APS and accommodation history.

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