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The education sector is increasingly a focus for us, and our flagship investment to date is the $220 million One Parramatta Square (1PSQ), which is owned by two of our managed funds.
This 15-storey, 26,500 square metre building was developed by us in close collaboration Western Sydney University to house their principal campus in the Parramatta CBD. The university has a 15-year lease on the first 10 floors above the ground floor, which is given over to retail and lobby space.
The vertical campus, which officially opened last year, is one of the most technologically advanced teaching and research spaces worldwide, and is integrated into of one of Australia's biggest urban renewal projects, the $3.2 billion Parramatta Square.
Situated in the heart of Parramatta City, Parramatta Square covers 3 hectares and once completed will encompass residential apartments, a 150-room hotel, retail and office spaces, civic buildings, a community centre and a public library.
Sitting directly above Parramatta’s transport interchange, it is set to become the heart of this burgeoning city, which enjoys Australia’s lowest office vacancy rate.
The design of 1PSQ by architectural firm Architectus draws together urban design, architecture and landscape architecture to create a place that significantly contributes to the revitalisation of Parramatta Square and the regeneration of the broader Parramatta CBD.
Through-site connections integrate the building with the local network of civic, cultural, commercial and retail spaces. This blurring of the lines between academia and the rest of the city fosters interaction and partnerships with local business and industry.
The other tenants of 1PSQ are Australia's largest professional services firm, PwC, and government agency WaterNSW, thus connecting thousands of students with business, government and industry and creating more opportunities for work-integrated learning, as well as fostering greater research collaborations with a focus on industry impact.
Within the 1PSQ campus, interior designers Woods Bagot helped to create a place that is multidisciplinary in function, innovative in approach and entrepreneurial in spirit.
A vertical campus stacked over several floors could potentially inhibit opportunities for students and educators to co-mingle and interact. However USW’s space is designed to feel open and porous on each level, and this is reinforced by a central atrium that creates a sense of community and connectivity, allowing for greater mobility while aiding sightlines between floors.
The provision of interconnecting stairs and voids also encourages collaboration and organic conversation between students, staff and industry.
The campus dispenses with traditional lecture theatres and encourages innovation, interaction and discovery through the use of smaller, informal learning spaces such as group study rooms with screen sharing and video conferencing, and collaborative learning studios spread across six floors.
With sustainable design and energy efficiency measures including the use of rainwater to meet 35 per cent of its toilet needs, the building has secured a 5-Star Green Star education design rating.
USW is delighted with its state-of-the-art vertical campus at 1PSQ, and the institution is already planning to develop more such facilities, says vice-chancellor Prof Barney Glover:
“1PSQ is the most important project we have undertaken in the last decade. This is a great partnership with Charter Hall, and to be a tenant in this building is a wonderful opportunity for us.’’
The booming tertiary education export sector will continue to generate further opportunities for investors. Australia hosted a record 690,000 international students last year, taking the value of education exports to $33.9 billion. Australia is predicted to overtake Britain this year as the world’s second most-popular destination for international students, behind only the US.
For real estate investors, the attraction of long-term tenants such as educational institutions backed by state and federal government revenues are clear.
Our CEO David Harrison says 1PSQ, which was delivered on time and on budget, exemplifies a new direction for future-focused learning environments:
“Some years ago we decided to take a strategic approach to really understanding the education sector. 1PSQ has been a wonderful journey for our team to understand what really drives a university, particularly one like WSU that’s trying to create vertical campuses and something that’s going to connect their students much more to corporate life."
“It’s a showcase we have used when speaking to a whole range of other educational organisations as we look to invest further in the sector.’’