Aged care goes up: Uniting Communities plans 18-level CBD village in Adelaide

August 1, 2016

Uniting Communities will build an 18-level tower in central Adelaide that combines independent aged living with supported and short-term accommodation above several floors of retail and community facilities.

The $80 million project allows the non-profit organisation linked to the Uniting Church to maintain a connection to the Franklin site from which it has functioned for the past 155 years, chief executive Simon Schrapel said.

It's the latest in a growing line of church organisations using their valuable real estate holdings to sustain their social and other activities. 

The push towards mid-rise and apartment-style retirement and aged care accommodation is gaining pace, particularly among church and charitable groups. Australian Unity is developing Rathdowne Place, a six-storey 162-unit aged care facility in Melbourne's Carlton and Stockland is developing medium-rise apartments in Ashfield in Sydney's inner west.

Artist's impression of the 18-level mixed use building in Adelaide's Franklin Street. Supplied

But the Uniting Communities' project seeks a wider mix of residents and activities in its bid to boost the sense of community in what will be one of the taller buildings in the city, Mr Schrapel said. 

"It is quite a different concept to integrate that retirement living in such an active building," Mr Schrapel told The Australian Financial Review. "There's been other high-rise exclusively independent living units, but nothing of this sort of mix and has people living and resident with other people who aren't old or part of the aged care development."

Divided into four sections, the building will have 46 independent living units for aged care residents occupying the top section, in levels 13 to 18. Below – on levels 8 to 12 – it will have 18 short-term units for respite living and 21 to support longer-term supported accommodation of people with disabilities, such as for wheelchair-bound sufferers of muscular dystrophy who require larger doorways and spaces to navigate. Workspace for the charitable organisation and other lettable office space will occupy levels three to seven, while the first section, comprising the ground, first and second floors will have retail and community facilities including a 400-seat auditorium. 

A 1960s-era church on the 2900-square-metre site will be demolished, with initial work starting as early as this week on the project that won state government approval in June. 

The development benefits from being on the route of Adelaide City Council's Laneways Masterplan, which seeks to create a continuous pedestrian route between the Riverbank precinct on North Terrace to the popular Adelaide Central Market on Grote Street, and boost the fledgling culture of laneway bars and cafes that has already received a boost following  the Adelaide Oval redevelopment. Uniting Communities will complete a new lane between Franklin and Grote streets by using land it has currently built on to extend the existing Penaluna Lane.

"This is on the market's doorstep. It's fully connected to that amenity," said Woods Bagot associate Alex Hall, who worked on the design. "Pitt Street has the same relationship to the Central Market as Bank and Leigh streets can have to Adelaide Oval."

Uniting Communities is leading the new development and is about two weeks away from selecting a builder, Mr Schrapel said. Construction should start by early October and will take about two years. The development accounts for only 1800sq m of the site owned by the organisation and a subsequent stage – possibly a joint development with commercial and social housing providers – will develop the remaining space of nearly 1100sq m at 10 Pitt Street, he said. 

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