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New vision imminent for old RAH site

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The emergency department at the new Royal Adelaide Hospital opened this morning with a “gentle” start for doctors, but expect a big bang at the other end of town soon with the State Government set to confirm plans for the old hospital’s redevelopment.

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The Government has been in negotiations about the old RAH with local development company Commercial & General and their partner John Holland for nearly 12 months. The redevelopment is promised to include more open space for the Botanic Gardens, public institutions and residential development.

The proponent’s original pitch to the Government, revealed by InDaily last year, included an underground concert hall for the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, a new contemporary art gallery and a Marriott hotel. Earlier this year, the site’s controller – Renewal SA – revealed developers had been in negotiations with the government about increased building heights, among other changes.

Today, Urban Development Minister Stephen Mullighan said that although those negotiations were ongoing, details would be revealed very soon.

“Further announcements about the demolition, activation and redevelopment of the old Royal Adelaide Hospital site are imminent,” he said in a statement.

He said the Governemnt was continuing negotiations with John Holland and Commercial & General, but was proceeding with separate tenders for the “temporary activation” of the site and the demolition of some buildings.

Renewal SA would manage the “activation” of the site while it is under development – “one of the largest projects of its type in the state”.

A sign outside the old RAH this morning. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

Early this morning, the Emergency Department at the old RAH closed, with the new ED opening simulataneously at the other end of North Terrace.

The wrapping on the new department’s sign was removed just before 7am to cheers.

Shortly after, Emergency Department head Dr Tom Soulsby said the opening had been a relatively “gentle start” for Adelaide’s new central hospital.

“We did have three ambulances by a quarter past seven – one of our first ambulance patients had been in a roll-over vehicle accident,” he told reporters.

Premier Jay Weatherill said the change-over had proceeded “as well as could possibly be expected”.

“If things keep going according to schedule that we’ve put in place, we expect to have the new hospital fully bedded-in by the end of Wednesday,” Weatherill said.

One of the first patients to be admitted arrives during the official opening of the new RAH’s emergency department today. Photo: AAP/David Mariuz

Health Minister Jack Snelling indicated that the gentle start was unlikely to continue, with the state’s public hospitals “incredibly busy this week”.

“We’ve seen a huge number of walk-in presentations, particularly at the Flinders Medical Centre and at the Lyell McEwen Emergency Department,” Snelling said.

The old RAH had been taking patients from these hospitals in recent days.

“It goes to show how well, so far, this move has gone.

“We expect to have all of our patients moved by tomorrow.

“This is a one in 200 year event and it really goes to show what we’re capable of here in South Australia.”

Unless the smooth handover goes pear-shaped, attention will soon be focused on the old RAH site – the biggest CBD development opportunity in recent history.

One potential key element of the site that will not be clear in the near future is the shape of the proposed “Adelaide Contemporary” art gallery – the vision of Art Gallery of South Australia director Nick Mitzevich.

The preferred proponents for the site’s redevelopment included a placeholder image in its proposal to the Government, in the shape of a floating white “box”.

Unreleased proponent’s plans for the old RAH site show concert goers outside the entrance to an underground concert hall.

The white building indicates where a new contemporary art gallery might sit on the redeveloped site.

Later this month, the State Government is expected to launch an international search for a team to design the gallery, with a budget of $1.9 million for the selection and commissioning process.

Mitzevich confirmed to InDaily that he expected the search to begin this month and that it would relate to designing the proposed Adelaide Contemporary gallery at the old RAH site.

The gallery vision includes providing full access – for the first time – to the state’s 42,000-piece collection.

A spokesperson for John Holland/Commercial & General said: “The joint venture partners are excited at the transformational opportunity this site presents and are wholly committed to our vision for a place that is going to generate industries and jobs of the future.”

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