Launceston Launches Plans for $90m Arts Hub


Two high profile sites in Launceston’s CBD will be redeveloped into a $90 million creative precinct, bus interchange and undercover arcade.

Council purchased the former Birchalls building and a share of Paterson Street Central car park as part of larger plans for the Launceston City Heart Project.

The vacant Birchalls building will become a ground-level arcade and public thoroughfare linking the Brisbane Street Mall to the proposed bus interchange.

The new bus interchange would be located at the carpark, with the remainder developed by the New Creative Group—comprised of education institute Foundry, design agency For the People and newly-incorporated developer Creative Property Holdings—to turn it into a $90 million mixed-use creative precinct.

The struggling arts sector was hit hard when Covid-19 restrictions led to the cancellation of events across the country, including the Tasmanian art festival Dark Mofo, which was to be held in Hobart in June.

However some groups have managed to receive funding, including the Launceston-based group, which recently received $10 million in federal funding under the Building Better Regions Fund.

City of Launceston mayor Albert van Zetten said the council had developed a business case to assess the future of the Birchalls building, which had determined the site was unlikely to be redeveloped without public intervention.

“We saw a similar situation with the CH Smith building in Charles Street, and the redevelopment of that site has been a great success, particularly given its derelict status for so many decades,” van Zetten said.

“We now have a model for that kind of project, partnering with other stakeholders to redevelop sites that may otherwise face significant hurdles, and we see a significant opportunity for us to apply a similar model to the Birchalls site. ”

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City of Launceston intend on redeveloping the Birchalls building, on Brisbane Street Mall, into a food and retail plaza, including office space, public amenities and parenting facilities.
▲ City of Launceston intend on redeveloping the Birchalls building, in Brisbane Street Mall, into a food and retail plaza, including office space, public amenities and parenting facilities.

“There are a number of potential uses for this site above the ground floor including a restaurant, commercial office space—of which there is a known shortage in Launceston—or it could be used for student accommodation or inner-city residential,” van Zetten said.

“Of course, it is intended to retain and make a feature of the building's significant heritage façade and the council intends to on-sell this building once it has been redeveloped.”

The state government and City of Launceston will construct a purpose-built bus interchange on the carpark behind the Birchalls building, complete with indoor waiting areas and contemporary design features.

The adjoining creative precinct plans by Hassell and Cumulus Studio showed modern building and streetscape which would house a education facility, a virtual and augmented reality enterprise, commercial offices, food premises, retail and student accommodation.

Construction is expected to commence in 2021, with staged openings throughout late 2022 through until quarter four of 2023.

New Creative Group managing director Chris Billing said the city would become a new creative and digital hub.

“It is an exciting time for Launceston, as we work towards a creative vision that will drive an influx of fresh space and new thinking, helping us build our local economy and foster internationally-recognised education,” Billing said.

Education spaces will be located in the lower levels of the main Paterson Street building with a combination of formal and informal teaching and learning studios.

Assisting in the financial viability of the project would be allied commercial office space as well as rooftop and ground floor retail space.

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