Sunday, September 20, 2015

Australian Education City Proposed for Victoria

An organization called "Australian Education City" has proposed an education, R&D and residential development, most likely to be near Melbourne.

The education component would have precincts, each with a campus shared by Australian, Chinese and UK universities. No universities are mentioned in the education campus outline, only the Beijing based Education International Corporation (EIC) Group, student recruitment company.

Residential development is a component of the "Australian Education City" and perhaps the key to financing the project.  The Melbourne contact address and telephone number given for the project are that of the offices of "Investors Direct Financial Group", a residential property investment company

This combination of residential, hi-tech and education are common to smart city proposals and smaller developments (many so called smart cities are really towns). As an example, the Australian Education City references an IBM infor-graphic about the Indian township of Palava. Also the IBM "A vision of smarter cities" is referenced (although there does not appear to be any IBM involvement in the Australian proposal).

Not all such smart city and tech-campus proposals are successful. Malaysia's Cyberjaya has required government investment to survive. Australia has its own attempt at a high tech city with the Multi-Function Polis (MFP), a Japanese 1980s proposal for a city of the future to concentrate on IT, education and environmental management. What resulted was a modest suburb in Adelaide and the renaming of an existing technology park.

On a smaller scale the ANU recently unveiled proposals for redevelopment of "Union Court" in the center of its Canberra campus, with provision for accommodation. The ANU has released a "Plan for Reimagined ANU Union Court and University Avenue" and is seeking investors, but the project might need to be changed to make it financially viable. Currently the project is envisaged with buildings far below even the current modest height limit set for this part of Canberra. With taller buildings, an investment at Australia's leading university (19th in the world) could be attractive to developers.

Another brown-field site available is the Australian Technology Park (ATP) in Sydney. This is located adjacent to a major rail corridor and close to the Sydney CBD, but has limited space. The ATP started with considerable promise, but failed, perhaps due to the lack of a residential and retail component.

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