Time to develop plans for old RAH site

Here’s a new year’s resolution for the State Government – develop an innovative plan for the existing Royal Adelaide Hospital site.

And then, importantly, share it with the public as soon as possible.

It was former Premier Mike Rann who announced in June 2006 that the State Government would replace the RAH with a new CBD hospital named the Marjorie Jackson Nelson Hospital.

A few things have changed over that almost nine-year period, but one element remains unchanged – there appears to be no firm plan for the site.

The existing site is without question one of Australia’s most exciting development opportunities – we’re talking 215,000 sqm of CBD land flanked by the Torrens on one side and North Terrace on the other side.

When the transition from old to new RAH takes place at some point over the next two years, it will leave behind a significant
parcel of vacated land and potentially a vacuum of economic activity.

That’s why we need to identify and attract a future use of the existing site and that’s why the State Government should adopt this as one of its important new year’s resolutions.

Let’s be frank, the State Government has known for the best part of a decade that this transition was on the horizon.

You don’t plan to sell your house and start building a new one without either renting in the interim or hitting up your parents for a roof over your head.

But we now find ourselves in this position.

The site currently supports a deep pool of workers and people commuting to the RAH, and it’s a significant number. We’re talking 6000 RAH staff, 70,000 Emergency Department patients, 4000 ICU patients, 83,000 general patients and 500,000 patients treated through outpatient appointments.

And it’s vital that we bear these statistics in mind.

These figures demonstrate the significance of the intensive use of this site and its importance to the surrounding area.

So it comes down to this – jobs and businesses located in the east end of Adelaide’s CBD. Rundle St alone boasts 100 businesses and provides employment to an estimated 3300 people, while pedestrian volume is close to 25,000 people
per day.

Future plans for this site must provide economic stimulus to avoid jeopardising thousands of jobs and hundreds of businesses in the east end.

At a time when employment uncertainty is all too common, it’s time to think big, ignite the think tank and take some calculated risks with the future of this exciting site.

Daniel Gannon is the SA Executive Director at the Property Council of Australia

This piece was first published in the Adelaide Advertiser