Opinion: Cloud of uncertainty over old RAH development

In Adelaide’s heart is a slice of real estate that can transform our city — a blank canvas where we can write a new chapter of our story.


It’s a place where we can be bold; where we can create a launch pad for leading innovators like Toronto’s MARS in Canada, build a contemporary art gallery that rivals Bilbao’s Guggenheim in Spain and create new economic opportunities.

What global cities would give to have a clean slate like ours; one at the end of an attractive cultural boulevard surrounded by world-class attractions, universities and parks. With these riches on our doorstep and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform our city centre, what is planned at the old Royal Adelaide Hospital site?

After the events of last week, we are none the wiser.

Over many years we’ve seen a competition, artist impressions and finally the news we’d been waiting for: the appointment of a consortium to work with the State Government to turn dreams into reality.

But now the deal has collapsed and the Government is going it alone.

Unless the deal was nothing short of exceptional — and it may have been — then the Government should have said no on behalf of taxpayers.

This is an exceptional site.

But, for a state promoting an open door policy to business investment, this collapse has sent the wrong message to investors and raised questions over the costs and outcomes of state versus private enterprise run developments.

It’s also hurting East End traders and has left the old Royal Adelaide site in limbo.

Although the Government has plans in place for demolition and a hotel tender process underway, the potential legal action and questions about Government’s ability to deal with private sector partners remain.

As to the future, it seems the Adelaide Contemporary Gallery is still on the agenda and while that’s good news, the fact that its scale and size is undecided is not.

We have the artworks — let’s give them a worthy home to draw visitors to our state. A residential component is also expected along with commercial tenancies, but it feels haphazard and piecemeal. Likewise, the Opposition’s plan lacks detail.

A cloud of uncertainty hangs over the project when what we need is clarity and confidence. This issue will be an election issue but for South Australians, it’s more important than political point scoring.

This is one of the most important pieces of real estate in our city’s living history and for us and future generations, we need to get it right — even if that now takes longer than we had all hoped.

This opinion piece was written by Committee for Adelaide CEO Jodie van Deventer and published in The Advertiser on 25 September 2017.

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