Heritage building is key to future

Macquarie House innovation hub spokesman James Riggall hopes to meld old and new in the proposed revamp of the Civic Square building.   Picture: ALEX DRUCE

Macquarie House innovation hub spokesman James Riggall hopes to meld old and new in the proposed revamp of the Civic Square building. Picture: ALEX DRUCE

AN 1800s building used to establish Launceston could be key to reinventing its future.

Technology consultant and software entrepreneur James Riggall said the proposed rebirth of Macquarie House as a technology hub would help the city become a leader in innovation and thought industry - with early designs advertising a streamlined co-working environment.

The $3 million rebuild is among 31 projects undergoing a value-for-money assessment process as part of Tasmania's $100 million forestry peace funding.

The building's redesign would see the top two floors transformed into a space where small businesses and freelancers rent desks and work beside fellow innovators, while a cafe and entertainment facilities would be worked into the basement and ground level.

Mr Riggall said he was confident it would be given the go-ahead, despite plans to scrap the peace deal.

``We've got no more guarantees than anyone else does, but we are quietly confident that it will be seen for what it is and can be,'' Mr Riggall said. 

The Georgian-style warehouse was built in Civic Square in 1830 to supply the Batman and Fawkner expeditions that ultimately established Melbourne. 

It is owned by the Launceston City Council and has most recently been used by the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery for storage.

Mr Riggall said the project began as a cheeky suggestion at a public forum, but quickly gained traction and spawned a dedicated volunteer group. 

``There is a great romanticism with the project,'' Mr Riggall said. 

``It is one of the oldest and most important buildings in the town's history, and now it could become the most modern and connected.

``It can be a place where young innovators get their start.'' 

Mr Riggall, a former lecturer at the University of Tasmania's HITLab, said he had studied the benefits of co-working arrangements for a number of years.

``The idea that you have to move to a big city or a big company in order to be successful in creative and innovative fields . . . it's just not true,'' he said. 

The Macquarie House project is scheduled to receive funding in the 2014-15 financial year.

Mr Riggall said it would then undergo an 18-month design and development process before it was occupied. 

Email: adruce@examiner.com.au

Twitter:  @AlexDruce1987

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