22 November 2021

UC to bank $67 million in land deal that could see thousands of homes built

| Ian Bushnell
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Residential project

An artist’s impression of the proposed residential precinct. Images: Peet Limited.

Up to 2600 dwellings could be built at Bruce over the next 15 years in a massive land deal that will yield the University of Canberra $67 million and give total control of the initial 15-hectare development to property developer Peet Limited.

The deal is a restructuring of a 2016 joint development agreement between Peet and UC, which also comes with an option to purchase a further 6.2 ha.

Peet plans to build 1600 residences, potentially worth $1 billion, through a mix of townhouses and apartments on the initial 15 ha, and more than 1000 townhouses and apartments across the optional 6.2 ha.

Peet managing director and CEO Brendan Gore said the deal gives Peet 100 per cent control of an exciting and innovative project that will be integrated with the broader UC campus master plan.

“The property is expected to be delivered over the next 15 years, while the option land is expected to be delivered over a five-year period if acquired, providing Peet with a long-term presence in the Belconnen Town Centre growth corridor of Canberra,” Mr Gore said.

UC said Peet’s announcement heralded the next steps in the development of the campus community precinct.

Aerial view of proposed project

An aerial view shows the proposed development in relation to the Belconnen Town Centre.

It said the Canberra Master Plan, released in March, outlined a vision for a campus supporting a living, working and student population of 45,000 made up of 12,000 residents, 15,000 students, and an enterprise and business population of more than 18,000.

Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Paddy Nixon said the deal would also enable the university to invest in major strategic initiatives that support its core mission of academic excellence.

“The University of Canberra’s master plan envisages a campus connected to our surrounding suburbs with a significant increase in the number of Canberrans living their educated life as part of our community,” he said.

Professor Nixon said the proposed development would link the university with the Belconnen Town Centre, enabling a more natural connection between the university core, Lake Ginninderra and the Town Centre.

“As custodians of the university’s land endowment, this next step also realises the capacity of the university to plan for the long-term investments we need to make in our campus, teaching and research.”

Asked about the restructured deal, a UC spokesperson said the development as announced was in the best interests of both parties and the broader community.

“The development will align with the University’s master plan and deliver on our ambition to have a much larger living, working and studying population at our Bruce campus,” the spokesperson said.

UC and Peet will form a collaboration agreement which will include placements for students in work-integrated learning, extensive support for university research including PhD scholarships and development of a collaboration committee with a plan to identify projects, research and teaching opportunities.

The deal is subject to the ACT Government granting a Crown lease, with the purchase price to be paid in instalments over seven years commencing in 2022.

Proposed development

Another view of the proposed development. Peet says sales could be worth $1 billion.

The option on the 6.2 ha can be taken up between 1 January 2027 and 21 December 2030.

Peet said it looked forward to partnering with UC on this development and being part of the university’s broader master plan vision for the campus.

“The development of the property is expected to commence during the 2023 financial year and has an estimated gross sales value of more than $1 billion, with a decision to extend the project via the exercise of the option agreement for the option land not required until 2027,” Mr Gore.

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An ACT Government spokesperson said the announcement would go towards delivering the master plan, which the government welcomed in March, particularly better connecting UC with the Belconnen Town Centre.

The development had been made possible by amendments to the UC Act in 2015.

“Additional housing supply close to the Belconnen town centre will be welcomed by the community, especially local business,” the spokesperson said.

The ambitious 20-year master plan estimates a $5 billion investment in stages across all areas of the university and the community that better connects the university’s hubs with Belconnen and the Canberra region, including a light rail line linking the city and CIT to the Belconnen Town Centre, via the university.

A sports precinct includes plans for a new arena, multi-court sports centre and continuation of high-performance sport and associated research that would cement UC as the sports university of Australia.

The university’s other hubs such as health, aged care, early learning, retail and housing will deliver a number of on-campus services to the Belconnen and wider Canberra region.

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$67m from ~$1b in sales is just a 0.67% return to the University. The real estate agents will likely cut a better deal and UC owned the land.

I can’t help but think that having start-ups, SMEs and larger enterprises on campus as part of a more considered innovation precinct would have had perpetual and greater impact to the University’s central mission of applied research and industry aligned education.

Alternatively, having these developed rather than just bush blocks provides and uplift in the value of the remaining land across the campus.

Along with the thousands of units just completed near the town centre this is going to put extreme pressure on the open space around the lake. There seems to be no provision made for additional open space to accommodate all these extra people. And there is certainly no government interest in ensuring that single unit dwellings plant trees to offset the vast areas of paved ground. The government needs to abandon the failed attempt to develop Lawson Stage 2 and turn this area into open parkland.

This site is immediately next to the 11 hectare John night park. Most of Lake G shoreline is undeveloped open space and offers far better potential as open recreation space compared to the isolated and distant area of Lawson. The only thing that could make lawson worse would be leaving it as it is.

Capital Retro1:52 pm 22 Nov 21

“Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Paddy Nixon said the deal would also enable the university to invest in major strategic initiatives that support its core mission of academic excellence.”

Can anyone explain what this means?

Laurie Plant7:52 pm 22 Nov 21

They’ve got $67 million in the back burner and they’re gonna wax the lot man!

It means UC is going to spend the money on whatever they want. It’s just double speak. It could be anything from new blackboards to increasing the chancellor’s salary.

Capital Retro6:47 am 24 Nov 21

As long as they pay at least 25% “betterment tax” I don’t really care what they do.

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