[+] Developer circle as health center plans crystallize

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Blacktown Council is confident developer interest is growing as it pursues its vision for a health and education hub, including a $500 million private hospital.

They also want vocational education and training provider TAFE NSW to remain a key part of the precinct, said Blacktown transformation director Bill Tsakalos.

“If you’re TAFE, you’re going to think, there’s a health center growing here, I’m teaching professional courses, what can I do to respond to that and benefit from that,” Tsakalos said.

Some landowners and developers had already approached the council about the area, he says. “They clearly see an opportunity there.”

Blacktown Council has now submitted a proposal to the NSW Planning Department for the hub on the outskirts of the city, around 35km from Sydney’s CBD.

As part of the proposal, which has been in discussion for around four years, the council wants a private hospital to be built on around 20ha of land between the public hospital in Blacktown and the town centre.

The development would also include specialist medical practices, consulting rooms, assisted living facilities and aged care, as well as outlying developments such as car parks, high-density residences and retail.

The plan was revealed after Blacktown submitted zoning law amendments to the New South Wales government, calling for a variety of changes for higher density, increased height and mixed use, putting the focus on “health service institutions and educational institutions”.

▲ A rendering of part of the proposed health and education ward in Blacktown.

In some cases, there will be a new “bonus height up to 44 metres”, which the council says will be the subject of a design competition.

Blacktown City Council’s director of transformation, Bill Tsakalos, said the city had spent nearly $1.5 million securing the proposal so far. He first commissioned a study testing the viability of a private hospital, effectively next to the public establishment.

“We were interested in understanding if there was any motivation for a private hospital to be located here,” says Tsakalos.

“Consultants have come back within the year with a resounding, yes there is demand, especially in Western Sydney for a private hospital because of the specializations it attracts.”

This was followed by an 18-month urban design exercise which looked at planning controls, zone usage, road patterns and height restrictions.

The precinct is generally bounded by the Western Railway to the north, Sunnyholt and Newton Roads to the west, Griffiths Street, Marcel Crescent and Blacktown Hospital to the east, and Bungarribee Road to the south.

Tsakalos says the second phase of the proposal focuses on infrastructure.

“We have to develop the enclosure. It is necessary to invest in things like the width of the streets, the amenity of these streets – the lighting, the planting of trees, the paths, things like that – to adapt it to the problems that this type of development will present,” says Tsakalos.

▲ The board is confident that investor interest in the hub will be high.

At least 22 properties, mostly single-family dwellings, will be acquired by the council to allow for changes to road connectivity and increased stormwater drainage and public open spaces. Tsakalos said most of these acquisitions would be wooden houses used for council offices.

The town is in talks with vocational education and training provider TAFE NSW, which has a campus on the ground that Blacktown wants to develop, providing courses for around 7,000 students. They fear that the educational institution will be part of the proposal.

“TAFE has a big presence in this neighborhood,” Tsakalos says. “Obviously we want them to stay there and we want them to meet our plan as part of managing their offerings, so they’re in tune with the needs of the community.”

The city won’t be drawn on exact development costs, but it expects the private hospital and associated consulting rooms to cost at least $500 million.

Tsakalos says seeking private investment would be the third phase of the plan.

“We don’t build those kinds of buildings,” he says. “These are private parcels of land that belong to members of the public and these are the ones that we will sell to a developer to come and build on.”

Blacktown is one of Australia’s fastest growing municipalities, with the NSW government predicting a population increase of around 264,100, to 612,150 by 2041.

The government has invested $700 million in the expansion of the public hospital in Blacktown to prepare for such a change. Steps one and two are complete.



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