Posted by: Hendra Siry | 14 June, 2008

ANU goes for gold with new office block

BY JOHN THISTLETON
BUSINESS EDITOR

Canberra developers have questioned a planned $150 million office block in an area the ANU and the ACT Government set aside for business and research investment.Work has begun on the 12-storey building in Marcus Clarke Street, due to be completed by 2010.

But neither the ACT Government nor the Australian National University would say yesterday how much the land in the ANU Exchange precinct was worth or who would occupy the building.

In 2005, the Government announced a $600 million partnership with the ANU and property group Baulderstone Hornibrook to build student accommodation and a research hub.

Then treasurer Ted Quinlan said the Government admitted to pure, crass commercialism in making the land available.

At the time, ANU vice-chancellor Professor Ian Chubb said the university had a joint venture with the Motor Traders’ Association Superannuation Fund to capture ideas from Canberra researchers and develop them into new businesses and jobs.

He said the ANU, which spent $550 million a year on research, had historically looked at Canberra with an international focus, which would continue, but now it would also contribute commercially, culturally and socially to the life of the city.

Developers believe the building, with street fronts on Marcus Clarke and Childers Streets, aims to house a federal government tenant.

Professor Chubb said in April the ANU lost $100 million from its investment portfolio as a result of the worldwide share market crash.

It now appears this $150 million project is well under way without a tenant being signed. In a brief statement, the ANU said negotiations were still under way with prospective tenants who would have to primarily be organisations with a relationship to the ANU.

”ANU paid the commercial rate for the land as determined by an independent valuer,” it said.

One industry figure, who preferred not to be named, said the development was surprising as its use seemed to have no direct relationship to ANU activities.

”While we were aware there was to be some small commercial component as part of the ANU Exchange development, we understood that most of the development was to be directly related to the core functions of the ANU in areas such as research and development, nano-technology and other high-tech uses.”

A spokeswoman for Chief Minister Jon Stanhope said the Government had been aware large office buildings incorporating university-related uses were planned in the Precinct Agreement, signed in December 2004.

One of the joint venture partners, Alba Capital Partners, (formerly Baulderstone Hornibrook’s Capital Solutions arm) said the $150 building continued the vision of ANU Exchange’s nexus between the university, commercial and government users. The building, to be known as Co-Lab, was part of a vision to integrate community, educational and arts space with commerce and research.

”This will begin to be realised with this state-of-the-art building that will stimulate commercial growth within ANU Exchange.”

The 4.5-star Australian Greenhouse Building Rating and 5-star Green Star building would cater for the growing demand for environmentally sensitive commercial space in the city.

The building would provide flexible floor space from nearly 1400sqm to more than 2900sqm floorplates, panoramic views, ground floor retail space, an arts laneway and a 600-plus space underground car park.

Source: Canberra Times


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