By Tom O’Meara
The revitalisation of Launceston will receive another significant boost, with a $20 million transformation planned for the CH Smith site.
Developer Errol Stewart is adding to his portfolio in the river precinct, announcing he would transform the disused and controversial site – building on momentum from his Northbank Silos hotel, currently being constructed across the river from his existing Seaport and car yard facilities.
Combined with the rapidly-progressing UTas relocation and fellow developer Josef Chromy’s Penny Royal and TRC expansion, the northern end of the city is being given a major overhaul that has boosted business confidence.
And, in an exclusive, the TBR can reveal another multi-million dollar development will soon be put to Launceston City Council to finally restore the Boland St Cottages – ending a long running saga.
They have been delisted from the Heritage Council register, sold and a development application for a significant project is close to being submitted, with work to revitalise the block which fronts the river close to the site of the University’s proposed new Inveresk and Willis St car park home.
Progress on both the derelict Boland St and CH Smith sites has been long awaited, with the challenge of maintaining heritage aspects while ensuring commercial viability.
The CH Smith site has been the subject of many grandiose redevelopment concepts that have never seen the light of day.
But with confirmation the State Government will have office space within the new buildings and the council will own and operate a 300-space car park on-site, the Stewart plan is regarded as a guaranteed goer.
The council voted to seek a $9m interest-free loan from the State Government as part of its Northern Economic Stimulus Package to fund the car park.
Other retail spaces on the site will include a cafe and restaurant.
Mr Stewart, who unveiled plans with Launceston architect Scott Curran, said it was a subtle development.
“It’s a sensible commercial development that includes all of the 1830’s heritage buildings. We will be spending $2m on the heritage buildings alone with an overall spend of $20m,” Mr Stewart said.
“It will be a development that people will be proud of and I’m sure there will be a loud cheer when we get started in February.”
The Council believes the new proposal meets a number of strategic goals for the city and will provide a better connection between the CBD and the waterfront.
“The site is strategically located to provide convenient car parking facilities for the future development of Civic Square, northern edge of the CBD and the city’s recreational riverfront areas,” Mayor Albert van Zetten said.
“Through its work on the Launceston City Heart Project, the North Bank redevelopment and the University of Tasmania relocation, the City of Launceston is seeking to fundamentally change the way our city has been operating.
“Development of the site in a manner that is visually appealing, restores the highly-regarded heritage values of the buildings and achieves the strategic function of the location is extremely important both in real terms and as an expression of confidence to residents and visitors to Launceston.
“In years to come, I think historians will note that 2016 was the year in which Launceston finally found a way forward for the C.H. Smith site, one which protected the best elements of our past, and paved the way for a positive future.”
Treasurer Peter Gutwein said the $9 million application from council for car parking would be expedited, adding that 10 councils had submitted infrastructure projects worth $36 million as a result of the stimulus package.
“This site has been a hole in the ground for two decades. This is a fantastic outcome with the collaboration of government, local government and developers,” Mr Gutwein said.