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.
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”.
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.