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Former Collingwood Technical School project

The former Collingwood Technical School site in inner city Melbourne has been a place of creativity, collaboration and inspiration for more than 140 years.

In 1871, the Collingwood School of Design and School of Art opened on the site. In 1921, the site became home to Collingwood Technical School, and later the Collingwood Technical College which operated until 2005.

Creative Victoria took over management in 2010 as part of the project to build a new home for Circus Oz which now takes up approximately half of the former school grounds.

We have just completed $2 million of works on the unoccupied section of the site, located at 35 Johnston St. These works were basic upgrades aimed at halting degradation and improving safety. In addition to the building works, we have also been working on a major project to explore how these buildings could be used in future.

After various investigations – from architectural feasibility studies to economic modelling – it was determined that the best future use for the unoccupied portion of the site would be as a contemporary creative precinct. One that could operate independently and provide a home for small and medium creative organisations as well as artists and complementary businesses.

Project model

In order to transform the site into a creative hub, a new charitable social enterprise entity has been set up, known as Contemporary Arts Precincts Ltd (CAP). This body has been charged with transforming the former Collingwood Technical School into a vibrant, cross-disciplinary cultural precinct that provides secure customised space for the creative industries.

This model is an Australian-first and while the Collingwood site will be CAP’s first project, the organisation’s remit will be broad, with the potential to create new cultural precincts and creative spaces across the state in future.

The creation of Contemporary Arts Precincts Ltd is inspired by successful international models, such as Artscape (Toronto), Acme Studios (London), Artspace (US) and was developed with input from a range of independent Victorian creative organisations.

Contemporary Arts Precincts Ltd

CAP will be led by a board of skilled business, property development and creative industries representatives.

Businessman and philanthropist Daniel Besen has been appointed Chair and the eight person board comprises:

  • Barbara Hyman, REA Group’s Executive General Manager of People and Culture 
  • Charlotte Day, Monash Museum of Art Director Charlotte Day
  • Stephen Carpenter, Partner KPMG
  • Ross Paterson, Partner Arnold Bloch Leibler
  • Richard Evans, arts consultant and former CEO of the Sydney Opera House
  • James Tutton, property developer and social entrepreneur 
  • Esther Anatolitis, Director of Regional Arts Victoria.

The Board has appointed Marcus Westbury as Chief Executive Officer of CAP. His term begins on 1 February 2016.

Next steps

The Victorian Government has made a planning application to the City of Yarra, to allow the site to be open to the public for events and activities in the future.

With CAP now in the set up stage, the next steps in the project include transferring ownership of the site from the Victorian Government to the new organisation. This will enable CAP to develop the site as a social enterprise. CAP will also commence work to raise the funds needed to complete the transformation of the site, as well as call for expressions of interest for potential tenants.

Following the selection of tenants, it is expected that the redevelopment of the site will take approximately three years including design, town planning and construction.

Old building with cars in front


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