Flinders University’s billion dollar plan to transform southern Adelaide

SOURCE: Flinders University
Flinders Village will be constructed around the new Flinders rail station.

By Clara Chooi 

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They say it takes a village to raise a child so imagine the effort required to sustain and grow entire communities.

In South Australia, a joint rail investment by the federal and state governments, and a soon-to-be-finalised land deal with the state, is paving the way for Flinders University to build such a “village”.

A vibrant urban centre

Called the Flinders Village, the project will see the creation of South Australia’s largest integrated education and health precinct, providing access to everything from high-tech research facilities to community and student spaces, cafes, shops, entertainment and more.

Once in full swing, the precinct is expected to drive public and private investment in southern Adelaide, raising its economic profile and generating thousands of jobs and work-integrated learning opportunities, as well as encouraging more academia-industry tie-ups for research and innovation.

The village, Flinders says, will be a place for the community to “live, learn, innovate, work and enjoy”.

Flinders village
The village will provide educators, students and visitors access to a host of amenities from learning spaces to shopping and entertainment. Source: Flinders University

But the vision for the AU$1.5 billion project would not have been possible without government funding for the extension of the Tonsley rail line.

The Morrison and Marshall federal and state governments recently confirmed they would provide AU$125 million in joint funding for the extension, called the Flinders Link Project. The project includes a 650m extension of the line, construction of a new Flinders station and a new pedestrian/cycle path, all of which will effectively bring students from across Adelaide to the school’s front door.

“The extension of the Flinders rail line, a crucial transport connection, is the key that unlocks our potential,” Flinders University President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Colin J Stirling said.

“It is the catalyst that will enable us to attract AU$1.5 billion in investment which will bring our vision to life. The new transport link will connect Flinders University to an ever-widening community and will improve access to the CBD for students living on campus.”

With development approval now received, the Flinders Link Project has kicked into gear. Major works will start in the coming months and will be completed by mid-2020.

Once this is in place, preliminary works on Flinders Village, to be built around the new rail station, will commence.


A place to live, learn, innovate and enjoy

The heart of the village will be dubbed Flinders Square. Surrounding the square will be the new Flinders station, a health research building and a boutique shopping centre, with a hotel behind it, The Advertiser reports.

Flinders, the portal adds, is in the process of finalising a land deal with the state government in which the school will spend up to AU$16 million to purchase 7ha of its own 160ha territory and convert it from Crown to freehold land to attract more private investors. The university plans to retain land ownership of the land and offer lease deals to tenants, with private interests.

The first project in the pipeline is the health research centre, an AU$200 million research powerhouse focusing on mental health, infectious diseases and personalised health delivery.

As the centre will be partly private funded with the university later taking a long-term lease on the building, Stirling says construction would be able to proceed more quickly than if the school decided to borrow cash.

“It means we can build more, more quickly,” Stirling says. According to a rough timeline by the university, the centre will be ready by 2021-22.

Flinders Village
The first stage of development is to construct a AU$200 million health research centre. Source: Flinders University

In support of the centre, the school will increase its student residential spaces to accommodate a growing number of regional and international students choosing to live on campus.

The target is to add 3,000 new beds across a dozen or so newly-constructed low-rise new student quarters. This is critical to the university’s plan to more than double the size of its international student cohort, from 3,000 students to 8,000.

In brief, the initial Flinders-led developments will include:

  • Health research centre
  • A community plaza
  • Enhanced pedestrian and bicycle connections, improving the campus arrival experience and connecting the institution’s central campus with Flinders at Tonsley, Flinders Medical Centre and Flinders at Sturt; and
  • New student accommodation.

A focus on quality and sustainability

On top of its own investments, the university will be inviting public and private partners to jointly develop Flinders Village and its precincts.

Stirling says there is already “intense” interest from student accommodation providers. But one crucial criterion for the school in selecting its partners is sustainability.

Flinders aims to become carbon neutral by 2021, generating 30 percent of its energy needs from renewable sources. As such, work on developing the village must contribute towards achieving this goal.

“Our plan is to have buildings that are sympathetic to the environment,” Stirling says. “These student buildings are relatively low profile, three, four, five storeys max. We don’t want to be building huge towers.”

Flinders Village
The university aims to achieve net zero emissions by 2021. Source: Flinders University

Together with its partners, the university will work on integrating the new rail line and other public transport networks into all future developments on Flinders Village. Through a combination of public and private investment, the Flinders Village dream will include the following features:

  • Retail and services
  • Recreation and entertainment
  • Commercial and office spaces
  • Community gardens
  • Student spaces
  • Research, and research commercialisation incubators
  • Health commercialisation and start-ups
  • Innovation incubators, co-working spaces and hubs
  • Health and wellness clinics and consulting suites
  • Health professional and administrative services
  • Art, community and cultural spaces
  • Childcare
  • Car parking to service Flinders Village
  • A hotel and serviced apartments
  • Conference facilities
  • Accommodation including:
  • New and upgraded student accommodation

By the university’s estimates, the precinct will sustain an average of 1,000 construction jobs over a decade, help increase the state’s education export revenue by AU$99 million and generate in excess of AU$150 million in additional annual overall export earnings.

Flinders Village is expected to be formally established by 2030.