Heavy investment in new CBD North urban renewal precinct

Heavy investment in new CBD North urban renewal precinct
Spencer Fowler Steen

The Victorian Government has announced $44.6 million to fund a new “green spine” linking the CBD, Carlton, Parkville and the Queen Victoria Market through a series of RMIT University-led capital works projects.

The funding will cover a raft of individual research, capital works and urban improvement projects creating a social innovation precinct bordered by Lygon, Victoria, Swanston and Queensberry streets which aims to facilitate a boom in visitors.

A Multi-faith and Wellbeing Centre to better serve the needs of RMIT’s diverse community, an Asia Trade and Innovation Hub designed to support local businesses operating in the Asia-Pacific, and a Social Innovation Hub to foster research into economic and social challenges are some of the projects earmarked for development.

There will even be a Space Industry Hub to connect Victorian businesses with global space technology opportunities.

RMIT Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Martin Bean CBE said the facilities and activities funded by the government would help RMIT contribute to Victoria’s social and economic response to the global COVID-19 pandemic and create jobs, enterprises and opportunities for the future.

“Activating this unique precinct and strengthening its connections with other parts of this great city will create long-lasting benefit for the Victorian economy and community,” Professor Bean said. 

It is understood the new capital works projects will be RMIT-owned but operated largely together with the community much like RMIT’s existing Old Melbourne Gaol courtyard and public spaces in Cardigan St and O’Grady Place.

Most capital works projects are expected to be completed by mid-2022 and will collectively support around 130 new construction and teaching jobs, according to the government.

It is understood existing green spaces such as Lincoln Square, Carlton Gardens, University Square and the Royal Exhibition gardens will be linked in order to attract visitors through pop ups and other forms of activation.

The Victorian Government’s two-year investment will extend programs in sectors ranging from engineering, computing and advanced manufacturing to healthcare, social services and justice innovation. 

RMIT will also be working to create publicly accessible shared spaces to encourage community production, studio spaces for artists and galleries within the precinct.

This project is one of many proposals from universities to the Victorian Higher Education State Investment Fund, which was developed in response to the significant impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the sector.

The $350 million fund is supporting universities with capital works, research infrastructure projects and applied research focused on boosting Victoria’s productivity and economy as the state recovers from the pandemic.
Minister for Training and Skills Gayle Tierney, who announced the funding in June, said the project would “change the fabric” of inner-city Melbourne.

“We have made an unprecedented investment in the university sector to support it through the pandemic, provide great opportunities for Victorians and to strengthen the state’s economy – and this project does just that.” •

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