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Computer animation academy AIE announces $46 million expansion plan in Canberra

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Michael Inman

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Big plans: The AIE is hoping to expand and transform its site at Canberra Technology Park.

Big plans: The AIE is hoping to expand and transform its site at Canberra Technology Park.

A Canberra computer animation academy has announced it will spend about $46 million over the next decade to transform itself into a major education player in the capital.

The Academy of Interactive Entertainment – a private educator for the 3D animation, game development and visual effects industries – will also shell out a further $35 million to expand its operations in Sydney and Melbourne, and plans to establish a campus in Adelaide by the end of the year.

The academy has started negotiations to buy Canberra Technology Park, the former Watson High School site, from the ACT government under new investment proposal guidelines.

The two-phase plan for the 5.74-hectare site involves transforming the existing buildings – which the AIE has occupied since 1996 – into a modern, technologically innovative learning environment.

The fitout would include $5 million in asbestos removal, $2 million to construct a sound stage for film animation and production, and $12 million to modernise existing buildings.

Academy chief executive John De Margheriti said the plan was to build a space that would allow the AIE to expand to about 650 students by 2024 and more than 1000 in the following years.

"We see the facility operating like a business and that way we are able to use some of the space for new initiatives such as sound stages and green screens," Mr De Margheriti said.

Stage two will involve building student accommodation blocks on the oval bordering Burton Street.

Mr De Margheriti said the accommodation would range from one-bedroom units to five-bedroom apartments.

Within a year of the site being purchased, accommodation for 32 beds at a cost of $2 million will be constructed.

The completed accommodation project will house between 300 to 400 beds.

Mr De Margheriti said the AIE's expansion interstate includes plans to establish a new campus in Adelaide and increase space in Sydney and Melbourne.

"The AIE's Melbourne campus is relocating at the end of this year into new premises at the World Trade Centre, more than doubling their current space," Mr De Margheriti said.

"The new facility will enable AIE to provide their Melbourne graduates with more incubator space as well as allow game companies to co-locate their studios right next to the talent."

In Sydney, the purchase of a building in Ultimo will allow the existing two campuses to merge at one site.

"Significant renovations and improvements are planned for all three sites," he said.