On Friday, the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning granted approval for a $425 million project that will see the demolition of the old Royal Women’s Hospital in Carlton. Melbourne University bought the site on the corner of Grattan and Swanston streets in 2012.
The university had hoped to retain the old structure but helicopter flight path restrictions from nearby Royal Melbourne Hospital forced it to develop the current plan, according to the Age. The Carlton Residents Association had been fighting the development, unhappy with the height of the proposed student accommodation on the corner of Cardigan and Grattan streets.
The new precinct will include student accommodation, commercial office space, a laboratory, co-working spaces, cafes and Science Gallery Melbourne, which will hold exhibitions.
The hospital first opened as the Melbourne Lying-In Hospital and Infirmary for Diseases of Women and Children in 1856 in an East Melbourne terrace house, just two decades after the city was founded.
In 1858 it moved to the Carlton site where it grew to house Australia’s busiest birth ward and the birthplace of hundreds of thousands of Australians. “By the second half of the twentieth century, more women gave birth in the women's maternity section than in any other hospital in the Commonwealth,” the hospital says on its website. In 2008 the hospital moved to a new facility in Parkville.
In its early days the old Royal Women’s operated as a “charity” hospital and served women patients who were unable to afford private medical care. In the late 1850s it became the first Australian hospital to train nurses. And in 1865 was also the first to teach medical students obstetrics and gynaecology. It held the first post-graduate class for nurses in Australia in 1930.
More recently, Australia’s first IVF baby was born at the hospital in 1980.
In the new development, the hospital will be remembered in the form of a digital presentation wall, with bricks from the old building being used in a central public space. Woods Bagot is the lead designer on the project.
Construction on the new development is due to begin in mid-2018, with its completion date pegged for 2020.