November 11, 2016

Future Melbourne: Ambitious overhaul of Parkville health hub

Parkville could be transformed into a living and working city-within-a-city to lure both medical tourists and the “young geniuses” who can run international drug trials and develop new cures and treatments.

But the ambitious overhaul of the healthcare hub, led by Melbourne Health’s former chief, most likely won’t come without short-term pain and major traffic re-routing.

Plans for a private hospital for overseas patients, nearby subsidised housing for scientists, and redeveloping Royal Melbourne Hospital could involve closing Grattan St to traffic and shifting the Haymarket roundabout.

Dr Gareth Goodier, who this week started his three-year term as executive chair of the Melbourne Biomedical Precinct, said he wanted to create an “ecology” that supported more researchers to have start-up companies, and giving them the funds and mentors to turn their promising discoveries into an attractive product for big investors.

“This is about creating wealth and jobs, as well as finding a cure for cancer,” Dr Goodier said. “We punch well above our weight in the science, but don’t do commercialisation well.”

About 10,000 researchers and 25,000 employees and students work already work in the 1km stretch, which includes six hospitals, seven research institutes and the university.

But first, Dr Goodier said, Victoria had to do more to attract the best of the best.

Just like a large proportion of new housing was set aside at a subsidy for researchers when Dr Goodier was chief executive of Cambridge University Hospitals Trust — an area that boasts 1000 biotechnology companies — he said the Arden redevelopment could be an ideal site for this.

The redevelopment of Royal Melbourne Hospital was possible on its present footprint, if land that houses the cogeneration power plant behind the Royal Women’s Hospital was used.

The new Melbourne Metro to run under Grattan St, which will require the road between Royal Parade and Leicester St to be dug up during construction, will bring both disruption and opportunity.

The RMH, Women’s Hospital and Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre all support closing their section of Grattan St to traffic to create a thoroughfare for pedestrians and ambulances.

University of Melbourne’s deputy vice-chancellor of research, Professor Jim McCluskey, said rail construction could be co-ordinated with the planned rebuild of its medical building, which could include outpatient clinics.

The former Ford dealership at the roundabout, owned by the university, is being considered to house a multi-story private hospital or classrooms. “We want to make this as important and iconic a neighbourhood as the sports complex around the MCG, and the cultural and artistic precinct at Southbank,” he said.


This article originally appeared in the Herald Sun – November 11, 2016.


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