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Industrial partnerships behind university’s property push

A 40-YEAR plan is coming to fruition for one of WA’s oldest educational institutions.

The University of WA this month started demolition and siteworks for the new $50 million Motorola research and development facility, the first of what it hopes will be many industrial partnerships on university-owned land.

UWA is spending an estimated $15 million to build the Motorola facility, which will develop software for a host of telecommunication products, including mobile phones, smart cards and palm computers.

The building will be located opposite the western border of the UWA campus on Fairway, in a mixed residential and commercial precinct where the university has been acquiring land since the 1960s.

The university has bought several properties within the strip, bordered by Broadway to the west and Fairway and Parkway to the east.

According to UWA property admin-istration manager Wayne Brown, the university hoped to build premises for more industrial partnerships within the precinct.

“The reason we are most interested in this land is because it provides an opportunity for a university-related activity, like industrial partnerships, to move in there,” Mr Brown said.

“In some cases the activity to be associated with the university will need to be off campus so it can have its own public face, and this area provides that.

“Having partnerships with companies

like Motorola will also provide employ-ment opportunities for our students. Such partnerships will be looked at closely.”

Developing the land also would create a strong link between the Crawley campus and the Nedlands campus, on the other side of Stirling Highway.

Mr Brown said there were 220 residences, either apartment buildings or houses, within the strip UWA wished to redevelop, and he estimated the university owned two-thirds of those properties.

“As the properties have come on the market we have bought them, provided they are at a fair price … we’ve been doing that since the 1960s,” he said.

A second partnership, this time in the arts, also is on the cards, with a UWA proposal to house the soon-to-be homeless WA Symphony Orchestra.

If the proposal wins the support of Culture and Arts Minister Sheila McHale, WASO would move to a new purpose-built facility, costing up to $24 million, located at one of three sites within the Crawley campus.

At the heart of the UWA campus, plans are under way to build a $60 million Chemical and Molecular Science Building.

Mr Brown said the building would consume four years’ worth of UWA’s capital funding but would result in a state-of-the-art science building that met the current and future needs of staff and students.

The 10,000sqm building will house research laboratories as well as under-graduate and post-graduate teaching facilities.

At the same time as it has been busy on plans to upgrade and expand its main campus, UWA has greatly changed the make-up of its off-campus property portfolio, now worth an estimated $150 million.

Several years ago, UWA enlisted the services of Lend Lease to advise on its property portfolio. It was recommended that the university diversify in property types and geographic locations.

As a result, the university shed three prime CBD properties at 218 and 220 St Georges Terrace and 895 Hay Street, and sunk the money into commercial properties in Melbourne and Queensland, and four industrial properties in Sydney.

The only three properties UWA owns in the Perth CBD are the Department of Transport Building at 441 Murray Street and two commercial buildings at 2 and 6 Kings Park Road. However, Mr Brown indicated these buildings would be sold within the next five years.

“We are not actively looking for more property, we are actually looking to downsize our property portfolio and reinvest in shares,” he said. “We feel that is a more flexible market than property, with greater returns in the long term.”

The university also moved in to the residential land market on the advice of Lend Lease and is now selling 110 blocks in Bibra Lake as part of a joint venture with Peet&Co.

Mr Brown expected up to $8 million would be generated for the university in the sales, all of which would be reinvested.

A second residential development in Shenton Park is expected to prove even more lucrative for the university, with sale of the 20ha site predicted to bring in up to $80 million.

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