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Old RAH developer could 'trade' taller buildings for more park lands

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Housing and Urban Development Minister Stephen Mullighan says if developer Commercial&General wants taller residential towers on the old Royal Adelaide Hospital site it will have to yield more space to rejuvenated park lands.

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Mullighan told ABC Radio Adelaide this morning that the Government was “not prepared to consider buildings higher than the current tallest building there, which I think is the helipad on the existing RAH building and that’s that 53 metre figure”.

However, he said: “If they want to put the proposal to us with any further height then they’re going to have to encroach on the rest of the development by handing back (land).

“… the tallest building there I think off the top of my head is about 53 metres high and that’s I think what the public would expect is that we don’t exceed that.

“What we have said to them is if you are planning on doing something higher then there has to be a substantial offset and that is likely to require even more land handed back to park lands or to the botanic gardens.”

Commercial&General is the preferred developer for the old RAH site.

Managing director Trevor Cooke suggested it was the Government, rather than C&G, that was interested in modified building heights on the site – but also argued there was no reason to have shorter height restrictions on buildings in the park lands than those in the city.

He told InDaily that the company’s “position” on building heights had not changed since it presented the Government with its proposal for the site.

“Our position however hasn’t changed,” he said, adding that the company was “contractually bound to hold to our original offer”.

However, Cooke also argued there was no reason that planning rules for the old RAH site should be any different to those that apply to other parts of the CBD – and that it was up to the Government to decide height restrictions on the site.

He questioned why the old RAH site would be treated differently from Frome Street, which will soon be home to Adelaide’s tallest building – a 134-metre-high hotel and apartment complex dubbed Frome Central.

Cooke noted there did not seem to be “such consternation” about the prospect of that development, for which iconic arts venue Rhino Room will be demolished (it has moved to a new venue on Pirie Street following a successful crowd-funding campaign).

However, he stressed: “We’re not pushing for anything greater than was in our original offer.”

“We don’t want anything more than what was in our original offer.”

He said the State Government had asked architects to model taller residential towers – or shorter towers with a larger footprint – on the old Royal Adelaide Hospital site.

“They asked our architect to do that work for them,” Cooke said.

“But it’s not our position and it never has been.”

“We just want to get on with the job.”

Renewal SA Chairman John Hanlon told a parliamentary committee yesterday that: “There have been discussions about greater height; there have also been discussions about not as much height but the development has a broader footprint.”

“It is just different scenarios we are looking at …

“The highest building on the site at the moment is 12 [stories] and in the original proposal—to be fair to those proponents—they did have a couple of parts of that site that were over the current height.

“Our position has been to stay at 12 storeys and maybe, in one or two places where you could go over height, it would be considered.”

Hanlon told InDaily in a statement this afternoon that: “Renewal SA has consistently advised the preferred proponent that it is their responsibility to present a proposal to meet the state’s requirements for the site.”

“Renewal SA did not request a proposal with increased residential building heights.”

The proposed development, revealed by the government late last year, would feature more than 1000 apartments, a massive 5-star hotel, a research centre, an extra two hectares of space for the Adelaide Botanic Garden, with the possible addition of a contemporary art gallery.

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