17 April 2020

ACTPLA calls 'Action!' on Gungahlin cinema complex

| Ian Bushnell
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Gungahlin cinema

An illustration from the DA of the approved Gungahlin cinema proposal. Image: Supplied.

The long wait for a cinema complex in Gungahlin is nearing its end after a $15 million proposal was given the green light, despite limited parking and optimistic traffic projections.

The ACT Planning and Land Authority has conditionally approved Krnc Group’s development application for a two-storey, eight screen complex with more than 1,600 seats to be operated by United Cinemas.

To be sited on the corner of Hinder and Efkarpidis Streets in the Town Centre next to Gungahlin Village, and not far from the light rail terminus, the proposal is for a mixed-use development with three ground-floor retail spaces, ground floor cinema foyer and the cinema upstairs.

It is planned as the first stage of an overall mixed-use development on Block 1 Section 12, a site undeveloped since the construction of the Town Centre in 2004-05.

Stage 2 to the north on the corner of Hinder and Hibberson Streets will be the subject of a separate DA and comprise two levels of offices and a ground floor of retail shops and a café, while development of the eastern part of the block facing Kate Crace Street is still to be determined.

Only 117 parking spaces have been provided in the undercroft car park, almost a quarter of that required by the Parking and Vehicular Access Code (PVAC), and a matter that was raised in representations and by Transport Canberra and City Services.

But the planning authority was swayed by arguments from the proponent that the PVAC is inequitable as it requires one space per four seats for cinemas in town centres and only one space per 12 seats in the city centre, equal to 136 spaces.

It also acknowledged that the proposal is near a light rail stop and existing car parking spaces, and that the cinema will be busiest after hours and at the weekend when demand for parking from surrounding commercial uses will be less.

Community expectations also weighed on the planning authority’s thinking.

”The Gungahlin community has been anticipating a cinema on this site for a considerable time. The applicant has made it clear the development may not be viable if additional parking is required,” it says in the Notice of Decision.

A number of conditions were imposed as a result of TCCS concerns, including reviewing the amount of traffic generated and its impact on surrounding roads and intersections.

”It’s quite surprising to anticipate that each ‘Screen’ theatre will likely generate only 13-14 trips out of 205 (approx.) seats, during the peak hour,” TCCS says.

Ten new trees are proposed and they must be planted on the verge and be advanced Pyrus calleryana ‘Capital’ ornamental pears in line with the designated street trees for Hinder Street,

The cinemas will have a dress circle theatre layout. The bottom floor will have recliner seats where patrons will be waited on with food, while there will be standard seating on the upper level.

There will be six smaller cinemas of 187 seats and two large ones of 270 seats.

Construction is expected to take 18 months.

The quest for a cinema in Gungahlin has had a chequered history since 2012 when the ACT Government first called for expressions of interest. Legal action between Hoyts and United delayed Krnc Group’s plans for the development, with United winning out.

United Cinemas currently has cinemas in Avalon, Collaroy, Craigieburn, Eldorado, Katoomba, McGraths Hill, Narellan, Rockingham and Warriewood, with one also planned for Queanbeyan.

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Smaller than Ben Hur and less cars than Cars. Not only are there going to be 1600 seats in the cinemas, there is also “three ground-floor retail spaces”! Where are their customers and staff going to park?

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