Newcastle University pushes on with new CBD development plans after rail corridor rezoning

ROOM TO MOVE: Part of the university's land holding along Honeysuckle Drive. The redevelopment site also includes the Wright Lane car park and the rail corridor.
ROOM TO MOVE: Part of the university's land holding along Honeysuckle Drive. The redevelopment site also includes the Wright Lane car park and the rail corridor.

The University of Newcastle is poised to announce detailed plans for its next CBD development after Newcastle City Council approved the rezoning of the former heavy rail corridor last month.

The university acquired a huge two-hectare section of Honeysuckle from the state government a year ago, about half of it on or beside the corridor next to Wright Lane, and has been working on an ambitious plan including teaching spaces, student accommodation and possibly recreation facilities.

The university has said the development will double the number of students in the CBD, which stands at about 3000 after the $90 million NeW Space building opened in July for business, law and creative industries courses.

A map showing the 2000 square metres of university land in orange where the light rail line leaves the corridor.

A map showing the 2000 square metres of university land in orange where the light rail line leaves the corridor.

The council voted last month to change the rezoning of the transport corridor to allow for a mix of development, open space and tourism activities, and the university said on Wednesday that it was moving ahead with its Honeysuckle plans on a site roughly the size of Civic Park. 

“The rezoning of the rail corridor provides a clearer picture of the type of development and public spaces that could support our growing city,” a university representative said.

“The University of Newcastle continues to undertake planning work for the land we have under contract with the Hunter Development Corporation in Honeysuckle and anticipates being able to make an announcement about the detailed plans for this site in the first half of 2018.”

The university owns a three-storey building at 468 Hunter Street, at Auckland Street, allowing it to open a direct pedestrian link between NeW Space and its Honeysuckle complex.

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The director of Northern Transport Engineering and Planning, Ron Brown, said he hoped the university also would maintain a public thoroughfare through the campus from Worth Place to a proposed new plaza where Civic Station now stands.   

The university said it had been buoyed by the success of NeW Space, which had contributed to a rise in the number of students wanting to study business or commerce at Newcastle.

The university owns 468 Hunter Street, which lies between NeW Space and the proposed development.

The university owns 468 Hunter Street, which lies between NeW Space and the proposed development.

“More students are choosing to pursue a degree in business or commerce at the University of Newcastle’s NeW Space education precinct in 2018, with a 10 per cent increase in [first] preferences from prospective students overall and a 16 per cent increase in offer acceptances,” the representative said.

“Whilst actual enrolment numbers won’t be known until the commencement of the semester, early indications of growth appear to be strongest in stand-alone bachelor of business and commerce degrees, and the combined business-commerce double degree.

“The new campus is seen as playing an important role in connecting the university with business, industry and community partners in Newcastle and the Hunter.”

The rezoning of the rail corridor provides a clearer picture of the type of development that could support our growing city.

University of Newcastle

Lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes said the university’s impending announcement was good news for inner-city businesses.

“I welcome the news that the University of Newcastle is on the cusp of announcing detailed plans for their next project in the Newcastle CBD as it has long been a shared vision and a vital component of our urban renewal objectives,” she said. 

“Given the calibre of the NeW Space building, I anticipate some exciting plans will be unveiled that will continue to support our vision to create a smart, liveable and sustainable Newcastle.

“Together with council the people of Newcastle have strongly embraced the university's expansion into the city, and I believe this announcement will also be very welcome.

“Expanding the university’s footprint into the city will mean more jobs and encourage improved services and amenity.

“Additional students and more university staff in the city centre will be incredibly beneficial to the local economy and will continue to breathe new life and opportunity into Newcastle, particularly for many of our local small businesses.”

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