Calls for residential takeover of Townsville police academy

Property Council of Australia Townsville committee chair Steve Motti in front of the Townsville Police Academy.

The property industry has called for some lateral thinking to create jobs and investment, stimulate the Townsville CBD and develop land that can be put to better use.

The Property Council of Australia has released a report, produced by advisory firm Urbis, which suggests the Townsville campus of the Queensland Police Service academy, fronting Rowes Bay, was better suited to residential redevelopment.

At the same time, the academy could be transferred to stimulate activity in the CBD.

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Property Council Queensland executive director Chris Mountford says the State Government’s sizeable land bank is the “lowest hanging fruit” for government to create jobs.

“The Government is the largest landowner in the state with innumerous parcels of ­vacant or under-utilised land that could be converted from a drain on resources to productive community assets,” Mountford says.

“Opening up excess government-owned land for development will not only create a significant windfall for the state but will unlock economic activity, create jobs and build business confidence.”

The Property Council’s Six Sites: Redevelopment of Surplus Government Land to Stimulate the Queensland Economy report, shows the private sector can transform some of the Government’s most neglected land. One of the properties is the Rowes Bay site, a former Bush Children’s Health Scheme home, meant for temporary use for the police academy but which has continued for ­almost 20 years.

Townsville Police Academy development

An artist’s impression of how the State Government’s Belgian Gardens land can be redeveloped for residential apartments.

It says the current use could be transferred to a more appropriate location in the CBD and the Rowes Bay site redeveloped with apartments. The report says a unit development with a coffee shop would create 63 jobs and construction valued at $11.7 million.

“The most significant opportunity presented by the redevelopment of this site is the ability to use the proceeds from the sale of the land to invest directly into the Townsville CBD,” the report says.

“The spin-off benefits of relocating the police use to the CBD align with key objectives of the Townsville CBD Master Plan, including increased activation and investment.”

Property Council Townsville chair Stephen Motti says leveraging off sites such as the police academy is something the industry has been urging for some time.

The Government is the largest landowner in the state with innumerous parcels of ­vacant or under-utilised land that could be converted from a drain on resources to productive community assets

“This is not about a big cheque. Here are premises that are under-utilised,” Motti says.

“There’s an opportunity to better use premises to stimulate economic activity, create jobs and secure a return for the state.”

Colliers International Townsville managing director Peter Wheeler says there are a lot of underused government properties in Townsville that could have a better use. The redevelopments would stimulate the economy by creating construction and jobs and inject money back to the state that could be used elsewhere.

The alternative is having land “just sitting around not doing a lot”, he says.

“Some of these sites might not be huge but they all add up,” Wheeler says.

“In the current economic environment every bit counts.”

This article from the Townsville Bulletin was originally published as “Shifting Townsville’s police academy could boost development and create jobs”.