Future of Julia Farr Centre site revealed

Development plans for the former Julia Farr Centre in Fullarton have been unveiled, after the prime inner-suburban site was sold for $42 million. See the pictures

Jan 19, 2024, updated Jan 30, 2024
The future of the old Julia Farr Centre in Fullarton has been revealed. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

The future of the old Julia Farr Centre in Fullarton has been revealed. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

The 2.8-hectare plot of land at 103 Fisher Street, Fullarton has been sold to aged care providers Living Choice and Opal Healthcare, Human Services Minister Nat Cook announced today.

The new owners plan to develop a “high-end residential, retirement and aged care precinct” featuring retirement apartments, townhouses and a “central park” for public use.

They also plan to retain and refurbish the mothballed 11-level Julia Farr Centre rather than demolish it.

Julia Farr Centre

The Julia Farr Centre, pictured from Concordia College, will be retained as part of the development. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

The Centre was built in the 1970s and housed people with disability. It stopped accepting new residents in 2014 and closed in 2020, with all residents since moving into community accommodation or aged care.

The developers are planning a memorial sculpture dedicated to Julia Farr and the more than 140-year history of the site known as Highgate Park.

Highgate Park Julia Farr

New plans released today for the old Julia Farr Centre site. Images: supplied

The sale of the prime Fullarton land marks the end of a lengthy consultation and sales process dating back to 2020 when the state government began to consider the site’s future.

Government land agency Renewal SA completed a market sounding process in 2022 which found housing, aged care or even high-end hotels could be potential future uses for Highgate Park.

The land – which also includes the Gosse International Student Residence, landscaped gardens and an adjacent car park – was put on the market in March 2023.

Living Choice already has a retirement village on Fisher Street adjacent to the Julia Farr Centre.

That retirement community, Living Choice Fullarton, opened in December 2014 after Living Choice purchased a parcel of land on the western side of the Julia Farr Centre precinct.

Julia Farr Centre

Living Choice Fullarton (circle left) opened in 2014 adjacent to the Julia Farr Centre/Highgate Park. Image: Google Maps

“Our vision for Highgate Park seamlessly integrates Living Choice Fullarton in a precinct which is sympathetic architecturally to the existing built form and surrounding community,” Living Choice director Ian Tregoning said in a statement.

“We believe our design parameters will embrace the expectations of our existing residents and the local community.”

Tregoning said Living Choice and Opal Healthcare’s offer for Highgate Park was “specifically crafted to facilitate a smooth planning approval process rather than simply maximise the floor space ratio”.

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“Our Masterplan includes further retirement apartments, an Aged Care Community in conjunction with Opal HealthCare, residential townhouses and a `central park’ with a large green space for public interaction and use,” he said.

The Home for the Incurables Trust owns Highgate Park and will benefit from the proceeds of the $42 million sale.

The Trust, of which the Human Services Minister is the sole trustee, was established to support people living with disability.

A working group led by disability organisation JFA Purple Organisation will oversee expenditure of the funds.

The state government said the new money will not be invested in services that are the responsibility of the NDIS, but rather initiatives to “connect people with disability to their communities.

Cook, who worked at the old Julia Farr Centre as a nurse in the 1990s, said the sale of Highgate Park “means two great organisations can build a new future on the site while the proceeds will support South Australians with disability”.

“I look forward to the working group providing advice on how the sale proceeds are used,” she said.

“Given the site has a history dating back more than 140 years, I hope the proceeds will support South Australians with disability for decades to come.”

Living Choice operates 12 retirement villages across Australia including three in Adelaide. It is also planning new over 50s “lifestyle resorts” in Mount Barker and Murray Bridge.

Opal Healthcare, based in Sydney, operates 100 care communities across Australia, including five in Adelaide.

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