A re-imagined and modernised James Cook University Douglas campus is in the works with the first sod turned today to kickstart construction of a public plaza central to revitalisation of the Townsville site.
Minister for State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning Cameron Dick said Central Plaza will be a social and entertainment hub in the heart of the University’s urban development project, Discovery Rise.
“Our government is committed to capturing economic uplift and generating jobs, and this project does exactly that, with around 15 jobs expected to be supported during the four-month Central Plaza construction phase,” he said.
“Central Plaza is also part of a much bigger picture which will see JCU Douglas transitioning from a conventional institutional setting into a university town within the city of Townsville.
“Through Discovery Rise, JCU is creating an urban community with a series of residential villages and non-academic facilities built around the Douglas campus and Townsville Hospital.”
Mr Dick said the Palaszczuk Government had co-invested $5 million towards construction of Central Plaza through the Catalyst Infrastructure Program which involves Economic Development Queensland offering an interest-free loan to certain types of physical projects, such as new transport, water or public realm infrastructure projects.
“This funding program is about facilitating and accelerating projects which may otherwise be delayed or struggle to get off the ground, because we know that when those projects get moving, the community and local economy will reap the rewards,” he said.
“This $5 million co-investment by our government has also paired perfectly with a $7.6 million investment by the University in the recently-completed Verandah Walk, linking Eddie Koiki Mabo Library, the Science Place and the Central Plaza.”
Mr Dick said Central Plaza marks just the first stage of a two-stage Ideas Market development, which will connect the University through public spaces and walkways.
“Stage 2 of the project will connect the Central Plaza and the new Technology Innovation Complex and includes further extensions to Verandah Walk,” he said.
“Once complete, this will all help unlock $280 million of private sector investment in Discovery Rise, so the positive impacts of this project will stretch even further.”
Member for Townsville Scott Stewart said: “Economic development is forging ahead in Townsville because the Palaszczuk Government is investing in smart development in areas which are key spaces for our community.
“This $5 million co-investment is part of an initiative from our government designed to unlock development, generate construction activity and create long-term employment.
“Better yet, the flow-on benefits and returns to the wider Townsville community will be worth a great deal more, which makes this project a real win for our city.”
James Cook University Acting Vice Chancellor Professor Chris Cocklin said the Central Plaza is the focal point in the growth of the University’s knowledge community and the broader health and knowledge precinct being advanced under the Townsville City Deal.
“In particular, the adjoining Technology Innovation Complex will become a centre of innovation and STEM education for north Queensland, delivering a new generation of employees and entrepreneurs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics for the region,” he said.
“Although Discovery Rise is a long-term project, spanning 10 to 20 years, Central Plaza provides an essential connection between its different elements. It’s the catalyst that enables the next stage of development, which will support jobs and bring new and sustained economic activity to the University.”
It is expected Discovery Rise will support around 1,050 construction jobs (not including residential) over four years and around 800 permanent jobs will be created from the new research, retail and health services.
Once completed, the urban precinct will be home to 8,000 residents and support a university population of 13,800 students and over 3,100 full-time university employees.