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Reinventing Devonport

Edition 197_Devonport

The transformation of Devonport is underway, with the first stage of a massive $250 million urban renewal project ready for its official opening.

The beginning of Devonport’s reinvention.

“It’s transformative,” are the words chosen by Stacey Sheehan from the Devonport Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

“This is already really exciting and we haven’t even scratched the surface yet.”

Devonport’s Living City Master Plan is the largest urban renewal project ever undertaken in regional Tasmania.

An ambitious vision to shape Devonport into a more service and tourist based economy, and centred around a revitalised city heart linked to a new waterfront precinct with a four-star hotel and parkland.

It is hard to grasp the impact on this regional city – home to just 30,000 people.

However, Living City is expected to generate $250 million in investment over a five to ten-year construction period and 800 on-going jobs.

Not to mention $112 million forecast to be injected into the local economy – each year – after completion.

“It is really incredible how this little city is transforming itself into a vibrant centre of tourism and business,” Sheehan says.

“By developing a master plan for Devonport, it gives businesses a lot of confidence that we are on a straight course for economic growth and development.

“I look around and see local businesses expanding. I see commercial buildings being quickly snapped up by investors, many of those coming down from the mainland. All the signs that tourism, retail and business confidence is on the up.

“It is really lifting the aspirations of the region."

City Living is a ten-year urban rejuvenation project which will create new retail, business and waterfront precincts that focus on tourism, arts, food and services.

It is an initiative of the local council which is funding the project, with a financial top-up from both the State and Federal Governments.

“This is a bold vision, an ambitious plan, but it is now starting to be rolled out,” Deputy General Manager of Devonport City Council, Matthew Atkins says.

“Yes, it is a big thing for Devonport, but Council got to the point where we really needed to do something to revitalise the area.”

The Living City Master Plan was adopted by council in 2014 and will be developed over three stages.

At a total cost of $71 million, the soon-to-be-completed Stage 1 includes two of the major tourism drawcards.

An 800-seat convention centre will anchor a new $48 million multi-purpose building, which also houses new council offices and Service Tasmania.

While a new food pavilion, ‘Providore Place’, will showcase the region’s premium produce with a market square, artisan distillery and restaurants.

The State Government has contributed $13 million towards this stage, and the Federal Government has added another $10 million.

Stage 2 will cost $55 million and is all about transforming the waterfront, with construction due to begin early next year and be completed by Christmas 2020. 

The centrepiece is a much-needed $40 million four-star hotel overlooking Bass Strait that is being built and developed by construction firm Fairbrother.

Landscaped parklands, marina, apartment complex and an over-water boardwalk will complete the precinct, which will be linked to the revitalised city heart.

The final stage focuses on creating new retail opportunities in the CBD including the re-location of the Harris Scarfe department store.

“Council did a cost-benefit analysis up front, and modelling showed that when the City Living master plan is fully implemented it will inject $112 million into our local economy every year,” Atkins adds. 

“And we are already seeing momentum with commercial property sales on the up and confidence growing in the private sector.”

Devonport is the Gateway to Tasmania.

Last year the twin Spirit of Tasmania vessels dispatched 433,000 people on the city’s doorstep after berthing in the Mersey River.

A number that will jump even more when the new larger vessels come on line in 2021, each bringing an extra 500 passengers with every sailing.

One of the big challenges has been to get Spirit passengers to visit Devonport. On disembarkation most ‘turn left’ and head straight for the Bass Highway and Launceston, by-passing the centre of Devonport.

“City Living is also about getting tourists on the Spirit of Tasmania to ‘turn right’ and visit us,” Sheehan observes.

Image Courtesy of Devonport City Council

12 August 2018, Edition 197

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