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RiotACT Face off: Yarralumla Development

By 21 July 2014 18

brickworks-john

For our second RiotACT Face Off, we invited The Yarralumla Residents Association and John Miller (Executive Director of the Master Builders, ACT) to answer the following question:

Is the proposed development of the area surrounding the Yarralumla Brickworks simply inevitable change in progress, aligned with society needs, or does it represent the end of a community for local residents?

John Miller
Executive Director, Master Builders ACT
john-miller

The proposed new development at Yarralumla including the Canberra Brickworks makes absolute sense. It makes sense in dealing with the imperative to take immediate steps to minimize the environmental footprint of the city. It also makes sense lest we wish to be judged harshly by future generations for selfish inaction on urban intensification.

The difficulty for local residents and the broader community will be about how Yarralumla happens rather than if it happens. The current negative reaction by some to the proposals is to be expected. The default position of most people when confronted with something new is to oppose it. Former Assembly member and ACT Government minister, John Hargreaves, summed that sentiment up nicely in this column recently when alluding to the National Arboretum.

Indicative concept drawings have the more intensive development interfacing with the major transport corridors but this will not appease some. The mixture of dwelling type seems to make sense in catering for market segments desperately in need of quality living options in good locations. For those already living in Yarralumla this proposed project vastly increases the opportunity for a future lifestyle change without having to leave the area.

The juxtaposition of the new development against the backdrop of the older suburb is something that can work with careful design elements. Again, it is the issue of change and dealing with the great unknown that will raise the hackles of suspicious opponents. There is no question that increased commercial activity sitting alongside the development will have some impacts. Minimising those impacts will need to be a priority but it shouldn’t torpedo this project at the start.

The key linchpin to this entire precinct is the Canberra Brickworks. For many Canberrans, these remnants are a spiritual connection with a bygone era. Most Canberrans, however would have no idea exactly where they are or how to get there.

We finally have a driver to bring the Canberra Brickworks to life and make them more than something we think we might have heard of or know about. We can sympathetically create a physical connection with the Canberra Brickworks and make them a real part of the life of Canberrans. It’s time to unlock the mystery and really interface with our past. This happens the world over. Our response should therefore be to celebrate the history and heritage of the Canberra Brickworks and introduce them to contemporary society to respect and enjoy.

There is a lot of water to pass under the bridge before the machinery moves in to effect the transformation. The debate will be vigorous, necessary and, no doubt, occasionally nasty. The challenge will be to get that water to pass under the bridge quickly and get on with the responsible intensification of the city that just has to happen.

John Miller has been Executive Director of Master Builders ACT since June 2007. He was formerly Executive Director of the Canberra Business Council and a past member of both the ACT Skills Commission and the ACT Heritage Council. He is a board member of Oz Help Foundation, a not-for-profit, community-based mental health support organization. John has been a resident of Canberra for more than 35 years.

The Yarralumla Residents Association
Yarralumla Residents Association

Neither. Yarralumla residents, for the most part, are not opposed to Canberra’s development and are not opposed to inner city infill. At community meetings, several people have asked “Where are our beautifully and sustainably designed inner city spaces, cafes, community spaces, and childcare facilities”? The development proposed for the area surrounding the Brickworks will certainly not win any awards for urban renewal. What the proposal offers is a poor quality grid design of high-rise apartments that over-develops the site with unprecedented levels of density for Canberra, while failing to deliver local residents and the Canberra community the long-promised development of the Yarralumla Brickworks as a heritage site and with no provision for proper transport or infrastructure.

Residents are genuinely attached to the Yarralumla Brickworks as a physical part of Canberra’s history. Many of the elderly in our suburb have fond memories of this important piece of Canberra heritage, and newer residents are keen to help preserve this icon for future generations to enjoy. The Yarralumla Residents Association regrets the ACT Government’s decision to only ‘make safe’ the Yarralumla Brickworks — a form of managed decay.

We are keen to have meaningful consultation with government planners that includes a real vision for the future of our city. We endorse the ACT Government’s own commitment to “continue to support and facilitate the future of Canberra as a vibrant city, while also improving…heritage asset management, public art and events across the city…” (Chief Minister’s Department, 2004).

We support development – we want sustainable communities where workers can walk, bike or use public transport to access employment and where residents can walk to nearby shops and community facilities instead of having to rely on cars. Where new housing is sympathetic to surrounding parkland, designed around active recreation, and oriented to take advantage of passive solar heating to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions.

The current concept for the proposed housing development between Adelaide Avenue and the Yarralumla Brickworks fails to deliver any of these social needs. This is not inevitable change – it is sloppy design with an eye to maximizing density and short-term profit. It erodes current resident’s community amenity, while denying future residents a genuinely visionary urban design.

So does it represent the end of a community for local residents?

Not if local attendance at community meetings and signatures on petitions are any guide. Yarralumla is a strong, diverse community. The same energy that brings hundreds of local residents to community events has galvanized them to demand a better development proposal. Hundreds have attended meetings organized by the Yarralumla Residents Association and the Inner South Canberra Community Council; residents of the streets most likely to suffer under the current proposal have organized their own street meetings and joint responses to the government’s proposal. More than 2000 people have already signed a petition asking the ACT government to go back to the drawing board on this one. We want a fully thought-out and costed proposal for community review. This is only the beginning of community action.

We are not anti-development and we welcome new residents to Yarralumla. We are fighting for the high quality inner city development, adequate traffic planning and investment in heritage that will make the Yarralumla Brickworks and surrounds a vibrant place for residents and the Canberra community.

Established in 1988, The YRA is an incorporated association formed to represent the views of residents of Yarralumla. Membership is voluntary and by subscription. It is available to residents located within Yarralumla.

The YRA has been active over many years in putting forward members’ interests to Government. One of our prime goals is to maintain and improve the quality of life for the Yarralumla community; and to keep the Yarralumla community informed about policy, environmental and social issues affecting or likely to affect Yarralumla. The YRA keeps all residents of Yarralumla informed of such matters whether they are members or not through hard copy newsletters and a noticeboard at the Yarralumla Shops.

(Main Image by John)

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18 Responses to RiotACT Face off: Yarralumla Development
#1
TheYRA10:41 am, 21 Jul 14

John says “The key linchpin to this entire precinct is the Canberra Brickworks”.

The Yarralumla Residents Association regrets the ACT Government’s decision to only ‘make safe’ the Yarralumla Brickworks — a form of managed decay.

Perhaps John could talk to his MBA colleagues on the board of the LDA to ensure the Canberra Brickworks become more than just a marketing tool for the proposed development. The $1.5 million allocated to ‘make safe’ the brickworks will not “make them a real part of the life of Canberrans”, as John recommends.

#2
davo10110:57 am, 21 Jul 14

dealing with the imperative to take immediate steps to minimize the environmental footprint of the city

Oh dear not this argument again. There is no evidence that packing people into higher density living reduces their environmental footprint. Transportation represents about 10% of a household’s CO2 emissions, at best this is about all we could hope to reduce by moving people into high density. The hard truth is that affluent people living in high density have almost the same footprint as affluent people living in low density.

#3
Maya12311:40 am, 21 Jul 14

“is a poor quality grid design”
I think this is a poor comment in the broader sense, because grid design can be one of the most efficient. I am talking in general terms here. It can allow better solar access for more people and less kms and therefore less fuel that is needed to drive from one place to another. Recently I have had need to drive about some of the newer outed suburbs. Now THOSE streets are an example of bad design. I might be close to my next destination as the crow flies, but the winding layout of the streets means I have to drive kms more than should be necessary, using more fuel than is necessary. This puts more budget pressure often on people who can least afford it. In a world facing climate change and peak oil fuel, these twisty street designs found in the new suburbs are a throw back to the days of cheap, ‘unlimited’ fuel; so last century. Don’t use grid design as a criticism without giving a more efficient model. They can be criticised for being laid out the wrong direction, but should not be criticised for being a grid design, unless of course you can show a more efficient design re fuel use, etc. I would be genuinely interested in more efficient designs if you can demonstrate them.
I can appreciate concern about the suburb you are living in changing, but while the population keeps growing infill is the best way to deal with this, rather than unending sprawl. If, as predicted, fuel keeps rising, it is these outer suburbs which are more likely to be the slums of the future. People will struggle to find the money to get to work and other places, and their winding street designs don’t help.
A solution to this is stable population. Remove the baby bonus, at least for any children more than two, and limit immigration.

#4
Zan1:22 pm, 21 Jul 14

It is not only about the redevelopment of the brickworks. It is also about the development of apartments on either side of Adelaide Avenue near the overpass into Yarralumla, behind the church and beside the church towards Government House. They will have to realign the Cotter Road (again) where it leads into Adelaide Avenue and Yarralumla. Go and have a look at the plans for the area. I do not live in the area but can see it is a terrible development plan.

#5
Maya1232:31 pm, 21 Jul 14

Zan said :

It is not only about the redevelopment of the brickworks. It is also about the development of apartments on either side of Adelaide Avenue near the overpass into Yarralumla, behind the church and beside the church towards Government House. They will have to realign the Cotter Road (again) where it leads into Adelaide Avenue and Yarralumla. Go and have a look at the plans for the area. I do not live in the area but can see it is a terrible development plan.

I hope ACTION puts bus stops nearby on Adelaide Avenue. Then the people in those houses will have very convenient public transport. It would be a very convenient place to live on the express bus routes, more so than those near the brickworks, if the bus stops are provided. Fast, regular buses to Woden and Civic, and not too bad to Tuggeranong and Belconnen too.

#6
magiccar92:44 pm, 21 Jul 14

Maya123 said :

I hope ACTION puts bus stops nearby on Adelaide Avenue. Then the people in those houses will have very convenient public transport. It would be a very convenient place to live on the express bus routes, more so than those near the brickworks, if the bus stops are provided. Fast, regular buses to Woden and Civic, and not too bad to Tuggeranong and Belconnen too.

Stop right there. You’re using logic, and we’ve all lived here long enough to know ACTION doesn’t use that. The transport side of this development will be yet another bungle and underestimation, I can see it a mile off.

#7
Maya1233:56 pm, 21 Jul 14

magiccar9 said :

Maya123 said :

I hope ACTION puts bus stops nearby on Adelaide Avenue. Then the people in those houses will have very convenient public transport. It would be a very convenient place to live on the express bus routes, more so than those near the brickworks, if the bus stops are provided. Fast, regular buses to Woden and Civic, and not too bad to Tuggeranong and Belconnen too.

Stop right there. You’re using logic, and we’ve all lived here long enough to know ACTION doesn’t use that. The transport side of this development will be yet another bungle and underestimation, I can see it a mile off.

In 2012 there was an ‘Adelaide Avenue Bus Stops Feasibility Study’. Be nice to know what the outcome was. Anyone know? Really know I mean.

http://www.transport.act.gov.au/policy_and_projects/transport_planning_studies/adelaide_avenue_bus_stops_feasibility_study

#8
switch4:28 pm, 21 Jul 14

magiccar9 said :

The transport side of this development will be yet another bungle and underestimation, I can see it a mile off.

A mile off will be distance to the bus stop.

#9
Innovation5:49 pm, 21 Jul 14

Maya123 said :

“is a poor quality grid design”
I think this is a poor comment in the broader sense, because grid design can be one of the most efficient. I am talking in general terms here. It can allow better solar access for more people and less kms and therefore less fuel that is needed to drive from one place to another. Recently I have had need to drive about some of the newer outed suburbs. Now THOSE streets are an example of bad design. I might be close to my next destination as the crow flies, but the winding layout of the streets means I have to drive kms more than should be necessary, using more fuel than is necessary. This puts more budget pressure often on people who can least afford it. In a world facing climate change and peak oil fuel, these twisty street designs found in the new suburbs are a throw back to the days of cheap, ‘unlimited’ fuel; so last century. Don’t use grid design as a criticism without giving a more efficient model. They can be criticised for being laid out the wrong direction, but should not be criticised for being a grid design, unless of course you can show a more efficient design re fuel use, etc. I would be genuinely interested in more efficient designs if you can demonstrate them.
I can appreciate concern about the suburb you are living in changing, but while the population keeps growing infill is the best way to deal with this, rather than unending sprawl. If, as predicted, fuel keeps rising, it is these outer suburbs which are more likely to be the slums of the future. People will struggle to find the money to get to work and other places, and their winding street designs don’t help.
A solution to this is stable population. Remove the baby bonus, at least for any children more than two, and limit immigration.

You might like to have a look at the proposal and even perhaps compare it to the 2010 proposal. The “poor quality grid design” I suspect refers to the lack of North facing sites and topography (which, I think, most suburb developments now must comply with) and very poor road entry/exit points. The “proposed” bus stop looks like it would be over a km away and no plan as to where it would be when it would be built or how people would get there. The “bus stop” study reported each basic bus stop costing in the millions but then fell silent. Since the bus stop proposal is not locked in it could easily be abandoned once the brickworks development goes ahead.

I think you’ll find many people support urban infill. It adds life to a suburb and most importantly reduces pressure on housing but Governments have to give these residents a purpose for living there and something to do other than just saying “we’ll whack a bus stop in over a km away”.

Rather than calling it the “Brickworks Redevelopment” – which actually they aren’t doing – perhaps the Government should rename this proposal the “Grab for Cash to Fund the Light Rail Development”.

#10
Maya1236:01 pm, 21 Jul 14

switch said :

magiccar9 said :

The transport side of this development will be yet another bungle and underestimation, I can see it a mile off.

A mile off will be distance to the bus stop.

What, from the housing next to Adelaide Avenue!

#11
davo1017:50 pm, 21 Jul 14

Maya123 said :

switch said :

A mile off will be distance to the bus stop.

What, from the housing next to Adelaide Avenue!

Where’s the bus stop on Adelaide Avenue?

#12
Maya1239:19 pm, 21 Jul 14

davo101 said :

Maya123 said :

switch said :

A mile off will be distance to the bus stop.

What, from the housing next to Adelaide Avenue!

Where’s the bus stop on Adelaide Avenue?

http://www.transport.act.gov.au/policy_and_projects/transport_planning_studies/adelaide_avenue_bus_stops_feasibility_study

It can be built, and should have been by now at Kent/Novar Street. I asked if anyone knows what the outcome of that study was.

#13
davo1018:13 am, 22 Jul 14

Maya123 said :

davo101 said :

Maya123 said :

switch said :

A mile off will be distance to the bus stop.

What, from the housing next to Adelaide Avenue!

Where’s the bus stop on Adelaide Avenue?

http://www.transport.act.gov.au/policy_and_projects/transport_planning_studies/adelaide_avenue_bus_stops_feasibility_study

It can be built, and should have been by now at Kent/Novar Street. I asked if anyone knows what the outcome of that study was.

So there is no bus stop.

#14
Maya1239:53 am, 22 Jul 14

davo101 said :

Maya123 said :

davo101 said :

Maya123 said :

switch said :

A mile off will be distance to the bus stop.

What, from the housing next to Adelaide Avenue!

Where’s the bus stop on Adelaide Avenue?

http://www.transport.act.gov.au/policy_and_projects/transport_planning_studies/adelaide_avenue_bus_stops_feasibility_study

It can be built, and should have been by now at Kent/Novar Street. I asked if anyone knows what the outcome of that study was.

So there is no bus stop.

No, and the new development has not been built yet either. A more useful comment would be if someone can enlighten us what happened with that study,

#15
davo1011:59 pm, 22 Jul 14

Maya123 said :

A more useful comment would be if someone can enlighten us what happened with that study,

As discussed in the original thread on this, in the current development strategy mentions a “possible” transit station on Adelaide Avenue. Or to put it another way, they’re not going to build it.

#16
Acton5:07 pm, 22 Jul 14

Contrary to what Mr Miller claims, the proposed new development at Yarralumla including the Canberra Brickworks makes no sense. Planning 1,600 new dwellings, up to eight stories high near the Canberra Brickworks ignores 35 years of community concerns. The proposal increases the number of dwellings, increases the height of buildings, removes valued green space, doubles the population of Yarralumla, increases traffic congestion, worsens already inadequate parking at Yarralumla shops and disregards the local environmental impact on a critically endangered species.

The small wooded and grassland area near the Brickworks is a tranquil site of local beauty. A semi-wild area, where dappled light filters through tall shady trees. King Parrots, Rosellas and Cockatoos glide through the canopy. Residents stroll along winding bush tracks, walk their dogs and meet their neighbours. Here children can explore and adventure. We don’t want it destroyed.

No, Mr Miller you are wrong and you can expect the residents of Yarralumla to fight this all the way.

#17
gooterz6:17 pm, 22 Jul 14

Is there still a railway adjacent to the brickworks?

#18
HiddenDragon6:32 pm, 22 Jul 14

davo101 said :

dealing with the imperative to take immediate steps to minimize the environmental footprint of the city

Oh dear not this argument again. There is no evidence that packing people into higher density living reduces their environmental footprint. Transportation represents about 10% of a household’s CO2 emissions, at best this is about all we could hope to reduce by moving people into high density. The hard truth is that affluent people living in high density have almost the same footprint as affluent people living in low density.

Indeed – if anything, driving a Toorak Tractor from Brickworks Yarralumla to Manuka will use even more petrol than driving from old Deakin (and only slightly less than from Red Hill).

Loving the thought of future generations going into meltdown over “selfish inaction on urban intensification” – like whatevs, dude.

It’s about the money, it’s always about the money – everyone knows that, so why bother with the window dressing.

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