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“It’s not going to happen”: Hanlon dismisses old RAH parklands advocates

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Renewal SA boss John Hanlon has categorically ruled out returning the old Royal Adelaide Hospital site to parklands, instead spruiking "exciting" redevelopment proposals for the site, about which negotiations were "getting down to a serious stage".

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“A lot of people tell me … you’ve got to return it to parklands,” Hanlon told a gathering of about 350 property industry representatives at a corporate breakfast this morning.

“I go, jeez, I don’t see too many people with their picnic baskets wandering down there at the moment … out in the middle of seven hectares inside the RAH.”

“It’s not going to happen – that’s not how it’s going to work.”

Hanlon used his speech at the Adelaide Oval for the 2016 Pitcher Partners property breakfast this morning to warn that the redevelopment had to be right to ensure the “survival” of the East End.

He said “exciting opportunities” had been presented to the State Government by developer groups, now whittled down to a shortlist of three, for the future of the site.

But, he repeated, “it’s not going to be parklands”.

“If you were going to make it parklands, (you) would still have to spend 200 or 300 million dollars just to do the demolitions and to clean up,” he told the crowd.

“You can’t just turn those back into parklands and think that somehow someone’s going to be benevolent and do that for you.

“But what we can do is make it a place that everyone wants to visit.”

Advocates for returning at least part of the site to the parklands, including city councillor Phil Martin, are worried the redevelopment of the site could be the first step in a broader commercialisation of the parklands by the State Government.

Martin said the State Government was “planning on transforming the parklands in the same way as it is planning on transforming health services – that is, they are in great danger of mucking it up”.

“The parklands are being turned over to development.

“There’s no debate that what’s planned for the whole of the parklands will in years to come be regretted by future South Australians.”

While Martin said he did not advocate returning the entire site to parklands, some parts of it – such as the westernmost buildings – should be.

He said it would be more appropriate for the redevelopment of the site to feature a new contemporary art gallery, or even a new parliament house, rather than any commercial residential development.

He stressed, however, that he was not privy to the specific proposals before the Government.

John Hanlon this morning. Photo supplied.

John Hanlon this morning. Photo supplied.

“It appears likely that (the redevelopment will be) one that’s not necessarily for the greater good of South Australians, but for the benefit of commercial and private investors,” Martin said.

“It’s not too late – they can make a decision that will have benefits for all South Australians.”

But Hanlon told this morning’s audience that that’s exactly what the redevelopment would do.

“It’s got to be of international standard, it’s got to be an economic stimulus, it’s got to be a mixed use public area … it’s got to highly connected space, it’s got to be something that south Australians can be proud of (and) it’s got to be sustainable,” he said.

“What’s been presented to us, all of those ideas, are about people visiting that site like we’ve never seen before.”

He said survival of the East End would turn on the quality of the redevelopment.

“Remember – we’ve got to replace about 7000 people a day down there. That’s what we’ve got to do to make sure the East End survives.

“That’s what we intend to do.”

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