The ACT Government has launched a public consultation on the future of Canberra Technology Park, on the old Watson High site, prompted by the need to renew its ageing infrastructure and the unsolicited proposal from the Academy of Interactive Entertainment (AIE) to purchase the site, renovate existing buildings, and add student accommodation.
The AIE – a video games, animation and visual effects school with other campuses in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide – in 2014 unveiled its multi-million dollar plans for the site where it has been operating for the past 20 years.
The next year it submitted a business case and master plan to transform the almost 6ha site into a multi-million dollar education precinct, spending about $111 million over the next 20 years to refurbish and modernise it.
The masterplan also envisaged facilities for the Watson community such as an all access park, dog park, new tennis courts and outdoor gym.
On its Facebook page last week AIE said it planned to make a significant financial investment to modernise and revitalise existing buildings comprising of a new AIE school building, student accommodation, film post-production co-working spaces, game co-working spaces and public green spaces.
“It will create hundreds of jobs and provide students across Australia with amazing opportunities,” AIE said. “We would encourage you to have your say and support our community consultation effort, as this facility is not just for Canberrans but for all of Australia.”
But the Government says it is not consulting on the AIE’s proposal, saying AIE, along with any other interested parties, will be able to take part in any subsequent sale process if there is community support.
“This consultation focuses on whether there is community support to upgrade and renovate this site as a higher education and enhanced community precinct, including student accommodation. If there is support, the feedback we receive from the community will be used to set the parameters of a competitive Request for Tender sale process,” it says.
The Canberra Technology Park site, on the corner of Windeyer Street and Phillip Avenue is a public asset that was once a high school from 1965 to 1988. The Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT) took over the site and the AIE and Canberra City Band have been the main tenants since.
Any redevelopment may include multi-storey buildings, with the Government saying that subject to strict planning rules, a multi-level student accommodation facility could allow for more public green space than a lower level building.
“If there is community support to upgrade and renovate this site as a higher education and enhanced community precinct, including student accommodation, the community will continue to have access to attractive and appealing green space. So, we particularly want to know how the community is currently using the public green space on this site, and what improvements they would like to see,” it says.
The site is Community Facilities Zoned (CFZ), which allows buildings that are within 30 metres of a residential block to be a maximum height of two storeys, and those more than 30 metres away to be up to four storeys.
The Government is asking people what improvements they would like to see if it is redeveloped and whether they support the redevelopment of the site as a higher education and enhanced community precinct.
It wants to know what features of the site that should be included in a new development, whether multi-level student accommodation on the site would be supported if it preserves more of the available public green space, and how that existing public green space be enhanced.
Respondents can go to the Your Say website and take the quick poll and Canberra Technology Park survey, drop a comment pin on the interactive map, or fill out the survey. They can also have input by attending community events.
Consultation closes on 16 March.