INFRASTRUCTURE

New ‘Exchange’ precinct widens Curtin’s doors to business & community

SOURCE: Curtin University
Artist's impression of the planned residential halls at the Exchange precinct.


By U2B Staff 

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Curtin University has a multimillion-dollar plan to beef up the current offering of its Western Australian home in Perth.

The university is building its first industry-connected precinct just 6km from the CBD, a transformative hub that will serve as a catalyst for innovation, benefiting students, industry and the broader community.

Dubbed “Exchange”, the precinct is a “dynamic extension” of the university’s academic center. It aims to connect Curtin students and faculty with industry and the wider Perth community through shared spaces built with collaboration as its driving purpose.

And with a total capital value of AU$300 million, it will be the single largest addition to the university in history.

Exchange precinct
Exchange will connect students and faculty to industry and the Perth community. Source: Curtin University

Curtin University Vice-Chancellor Professor Deborah Terry says the development represents a major shift in the direction of WA universities, which have traditionally operated within very clearly outlined boundaries.

“If you go to the great university cities of the world, you can’t really see where the university begins and ends,” she says in The West Australian.

“So it is really about opening up our campus to the community,” she adds.

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On top of nearly doubling the number of student beds at the university, development plans for Exchange include a new hotel, over 3,000 square meters of commercial space, as well as 15 specialty retail shops, including a grocery store and F&B outlets.

The new student accommodation will be operated by St Catherine’s College and UniLodge Australia, whilst Waldorf Australia Group will run the hotel, slated to be a 60-room boutique-style property. Thirty-eight residential apartments featuring one, two and three-bedroom units will also be built, and leased to staff.

Plans for the first phase include:

  • New student accommodation
  • Boutique hotel and residential apartments
  • A AU$110 million new home for the School of Design and the Built Environment, including commercial space available for lease by industry partners
  • New bus interchange, Curtin Central
  • Grocer and specialty retail
  • Public spaces and amenity

Further down the line are plans to explore other transport options to improve connectivity within the precinct. This is in line with a 2011 masterplan from the Department of Transport which recommended a light rail system connecting Curtin with the University of Western Australia.

Construction will kick off this August, with the first stage of development to officially open in January 2022.

Exchange precinct
The new precinct will include commercial and public spaces. Source: Curtin University

A private sector consortium led by InfraRed Capital Partners will deliver the first phase. The consortium has entered a 35-year partnership with Curtin to design, finance, construct and operate” the new developments. InfraRed Capital Partners is the principal equity investor in the Exhange project.

“Exchange has been designed to transform Curtin’s main Perth Campus into a major innovation hub where research, industry and the wider community will be able to come together to drive real-world solutions to tomorrow’s challenges in one convenient location, so I am absolutely delighted that this important milestone has been achieved,” Terry says in a release announcing the contract award this week.

Probuild has been appointed to construct three new buildings in the first stage of development, which will be delivered simultaneously and completed in time for the official opening.

According to an April announcement, the contract to deliver the new School of Design and the Built Environment designed by John Wardle Architects has been awarded to Landlease.

Exchange precinct
The first stage of development will be ready by January 2022. Source: Curtin University

WA Premier Mark McGowan congratulated Curtin on the project’s latest milestone. He said the development, which adds to the institution’s current 1,150 student beds, would be integral to boosting Curtin’s international student numbers. Curtin is the state’s largest and most culturally diverse university, and is home to Australia’s third-largest international student population.

“My government looks forward to continuing to work with the education sector on important projects, such as the new innovation hub, to encourage more international students to Western Australia, create local jobs and diversify the economy,” McGowan adds.

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According to InfraRed Chief Executive Werner von Guionneau, to minimise the environmental impact of the new development, the project will incorporate various sustainability initiatives such as the provision of alternative energy generation sources.

“Our involvement in this project is a further example of InfraRed’s commitment to sustainable infrastructure.”

Terry says with water recycling and energy minimisation initiatives, and its close proximity to the Curtin bus exchange, the new development aims to achieve a 5-Star “Green Star Design and As Built” sustainability rating.