The ACT government will move about 1100 territory Health Directorate and Access Canberra staff to Woden as it continues efforts to reorganise office accommodation.
The bid to revitalise the ailing town centre would see three main public service locations: Woden, Gungahlin and the city, where a planned privately-owned government office block has been pushed back to after the 2016 election.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the government would seek expressions of interest for public servants to occupy 15,500 square metres of office space in the Woden town centre, bringing all health staff other than hospital workers under one roof.
The plan would also boost struggling Woden businesses and include a new ACT government shopfront for Canberra’s south.
The government has 12 owned and 19 leased office accommodation sites around Canberra.
The timing of moves connected with the announcement is yet to be determined, but the government hopes public servants will be in Woden sometime next year. Mr Barr said the relocation process would be very quick, after a December 2 deadline.
About 750 people from Health will move to Woden.
Currently ACT Health staff are located across 30 sites around Canberra, including the Callam Offices in Woden, three buildings in Moore Street and the former Curtin Primary School. Administrative and corporate staff based at the Canberra Hospital will also move.
The government has committed to selling office buildings including 1 Moore Street, Dickson’s Dame Pattie Menzies House, the Dickson Motor Registry and Lyneham’s Macarthur House to take advantage of the federal government’s 15 per cent bonus for public asset sales.
The deadline for asset sales in the program is June 2019. The Woden announcement allows 1 Moore Street staff to move and frees up that building for sale.
Mr Barr said he had met with retail giant Westfield and other investors to talk up Woden’ revitalisation.
“We will work closely with them to support their renewal projects to come to fruition,” he said.
“We have announced, some time ago now, that we would be divesting from certain aged ACT government buildings, using the proceeds from those sales back into public infrastructure… which includes public transport.”
“We are going to market as soon as possible… and we would be very keen to move next year,” Mr Barr said.
The government is on track to meet the asset sales deadline, Mr Barr said.
Health Minister Simon Corbell said the staff would be better placed by being closer to Canberra Hospital.
“Co-locating a range of administration staff at present dispersed across Canberra will deliver operational and cost efficiencies and will ensure that space on the Canberra Hospital campus is freed up for clinical services,” Mr Corbell said.
The government moved about 600 IT staff from Woden to Gungahlin earlier this year, compounding problems for the town centre which has also seen federal government departures.
The new public service block in London Circuit has been planned to house 3400 public servants. First announced in 2010 as a government build, in 2012 Mr Barr instead decided to invite the private sector to build it instead.
In July 2014, he called for expressions of interest for a new build or refurbished office space within 10 minutes’ walk of the Assembly. In August, it received 11 expressions of interest, only one of which proposed a refurbishment.
On Tuesday Mr Barr said tender work begun in May was ongoing.
“We have other staffing and office accommodation requirements in the CBD as we are moving a number of staff as a result of other decisions taking around the asset recycling initiative,” he said.
Opposition Leader Jeremy Hanson said Woden had seen “tough times”.
“The ACT government moved some staff out of there a while ago, now they’re going to be moving some staff back. We’d welcome that… but it will have an impact on Civic.”