An undercover arcade with retail and food businesses will breathe new life into Launceston's former Birchalls building and link a new creative industries hub with the Brisbane Street Mall.
Adjacent to the creative industries hub proposed by New Creative Group, the City of Launceston council has purchased a section of the Paterson Street Central car park as well as the former Birchalls building to redevelop.
The former Birchalls building, which is an icon in its own right, will be fitted out as a mini-arcade, complete with curated retail spaces.
The council plans to develop a bus interchange complete with waiting facilities for its Metro bus network on its share of the car park. It will partner with the state government to deliver it.
"This project provides a rare opportunity for the council to construct a purpose-built public transport facility in our CBD," Launceston mayor Albert van Zetten said.
"This is going to be great for bus passengers, but also businesses who have been concerned about heavy public transport vehicles in St John Street. It will create significant economic activity, as well as new employment, social, cultural, and education opportunities for our region."
The council purchased the former Birchalls building for $8.4 million and the car park site for $6 million. The funding will come from an interest-free loan provided by the state government.
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The proposed redevelopment of St John Street was put on hold in 2017 to allow the council to find a solution to the location of the bus interchange.
That same year, the council commissioned a study into alternate locations for the St John Street bus stops, with the Paterson Street Central car park identified as the preferred site.
Cr van Zetten said the proposed precinct would significantly increase vibrancy, grow visitation and expand economic activity around the CBD as well as increase public transport use across the city.
A similar bus mall development in Christchurch, New Zealand, had increased the number of people who used the bus network. The results jumped from 2 per cent to 6 per cent.
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Cr van Zetten said the council had developed a business case for the future of the former Birchalls building, which had determined the site was unlikely to be redeveloped without public intervention.
"We saw a similar situation with the C.H. Smith building in Charles Street, and the redevelopment of that site has a great success, particularly given its derelict status for so many decades," he 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."
The redevelopment of the site will mean the loss of 125 parking spaces at Paterson Street Central. However, Cr van Zetten said there were provisions in place.
"The existing car park will remain in operation for at least 12 months until construction begins on the site," he said.
"We also have unused capacity in our two multi-storey car parks in Paterson Street, as well as the C.H. Smith car park, as well as plans to augment our existing car parking structures if there is a need."
Cr van Zetten said the Birchalls redevelopment was at the concept stage and final designs are not complete. However, the original heritage facade will remain as a feature of any design work. The council intends to on-sell the building once developed.
"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," Cr van Zetten said.
Community consultation will be conducted as the project progresses. The bus mall move will allow for the redevelopment of St John Street, which is a vital component of the City Heart project.
A proposed joint private development and work done by the City of Launceston council will result in the loss of 125 car spaces.
However, the council has reassured the public that the development will not result in any long-term shortfall of parking in the CBD.
The proposed development will mean the existing Paterson Street Central car park will be demolished to make way for the creative industries hub proposed by New Creative, along with the relocation of the Metro bus interchange from St John Street.
However, City of Launceston chief executive Michael Stretton said the council had contingency plans in place to mitigate the loss. Mr Stretton said the council had a goal to improve pedestrian movement around the CBD and the relocation of the bus interchange would help to facilitate that connectivity.
Despite this, the short-term parking spaces in Paterson St Central represents 3 per cent of the overall parking supply.
The area has 16 off-street car parking stations owned by the council (four), or private operators such as Care Park (10) and Secure Parking (two).
Combined, these car parks offer almost 1700 spaces. On-street parking totals more than 2200 spaces and is also available on most streets in the CBD.
The 125 off-street parking spaces in the Paterson Street Central car park are owned and operated by Care Park.
These short-term parking spaces represent just 3 per cent of the overall parking supply within the study area. The car park is expected to continue operating until at least March 2021 when development is expected to commence.
The council believe the loss of those spaces will spill into the other two car parks on that street. Paterson Street East and Paterson Street West, which operate at 61 and 72 per cent occupancy on weekdays. That number drops to 30 per cent on weekends.
The council will also look to open the C.H. Smith car park on weekends to offset the parking loss.
The council is also exploring opportunities to augment the Paterson Street East, Paterson Street West and/or the Elizabeth Street car parks to provide additional car parking capacity if demand increases.
Paterson Street Central will remain open until March 2021.
A proposal to develop a creative industries hub in Launceston's CBD has drawn funding support from the state and federal governments.
Tasmanian State Growth Minister Michael Ferguson said the government would provide a $6 million loan to the City of Launceston council to develop a bus interchange.
The interchange will be part of a new $90 million creative industries precinct, pioneered by new investor group New Creative, and will feature a new campus for Foundry.
State Growth Minister Michael Ferguson and Local Government Minister Mark Shelton congratulated the council for its involvement in the development of the Paterson Street Central car park, which is a strategically important parcel of land in the city.
"The development of a bus interchange and creative precinct will provide a significant economic boost for the region and create new jobs," Minister Ferguson said.
"The need for improved traffic and pedestrian connectivity was born out of the Launceston City Deal, which aims to create one of the most liveable and innovative regional cities in Australia."
Funds for the loan were made available through the Local Government Loans Program, announced in March.
The proposed creative industries precinct has also been supported by the federal government, which is providing $10 million towards the project.
Federal Member for Bass Bridget Archer said the community-based project was a positive investment in the region's future.
"This is a groundbreaking project that will transform our city and the Northern region. The project will drive not only economic growth and local jobs at a time we need them most but also drive new industries for the region.
"It unlocks a substantial amount of private investment and gives a much-needed confidence injection at this time."
The federal government's funding comes from the Building Better Regions Fund.