Whether by strategic design or not, the ACT Government has not been closely involved in the reveal this morning of an unsolicited plan by the GWS Giants AFL club and Melbourne property behemoth Grocon to revelop Manuka Oval and its surrounds.
The $800 million redevelopment plan, called Manuka Green (manukagreen.com.au), would feature 4750 new permanent seats to replace temporary seating and standing areas at Manuka Oval, new roofing covering 80 per cent of seating, a landscape upgrade including a new running track linking Manuka Oval to Telopea Park and the Kingston Foreshore, a 4-star hotel, serviced apartments, residential, commercial and retail precincts, a licensed club and up to 450 additional car parking spaces
If Mr Barr’s distance was intentional, then it may have been a smart move. While the plan (see artists’ impressions above and below) was unsolicited, Chief Minister Andrew Barr first flagged a major redevelopment of the site in 2009 and would no doubt welcome the news that a player such as Grocon wants to play a major role.
Mr Barr may not be so keen, however, to face the wrath of the residents of the Inner South in an election year should they react negatively to the plan.
The Chief Minister made few friends in the Inner South last year with his plan to move the Manuka Childcare Centre (pictured below) to the Telopea Park Tennis Courts to make way for a Canberra Services Club/Defence Housing development in Manuka. That plan is no more after extensive lobbying and campaigning by the communities of the school and childcare centre.
The Inner South community is likely to react swiftly to news of a development with the potential for impact on iconic sites such as historic Manuka Pool (pictured below) and leafy Telopea Park, community hubs such as the Manuka Arts Centre (home of ArtSound and PhotoAccess), the Canberra Fire Museum (with its neighbouring former fire station homes), and the Kingston Organic Community Garden behind the Canberra Baptist Church.
The parents and friends of Telopea Park School will be watching closely to see whether a further attempt to repurpose its tennis courts or to encroach on its playing fields will ensue, ready to leap into action as they did last year (see campaign material below). No doubt the impact on parking will be a concern for staff and parents too.
A spokesman for the Giants provided the following response to our question about the impact on the aforementioned sites:
“The site for the proposed development of Manuka Green is the area around the oval excluding the pool, caretaker’s cottage and their setting. The Jack Fingleton scoreboard is proposed to be moved closer to those two buildings while a new landscaped setting of these buildings extends towards the oval to create a new grassed “hill” at the northern end of the oval.
“There is no intention to develop beyond the existing land that surrounds the ground – not in to the tennis courts and park to the west, but the project will be funding off site precinct upgrade works including; a new running track through Telopea park to link Manuka with the Kingston Foreshore, a new grand square at the southern end of the stadium to aid the links between the stadium and Manuka shops, and landscape upgrades at the northern end of the ground to best link the stadium precinct and heritage square surrounding the Manuka Pool to Telopea Park.”
He did not comment on the Manuka Arts Centre but a spokesman for Mr Barr had this to say:
“The intention always was for those arts facilities to move to the dedicated, purpose-built arts facilities being built at the Kingston Foreshore. In that sense, the development of the Arts centre site is OK to consider as part of the broader Oval redevelopment. The Chief Minister has made it very clear though that there wouldn’t be any attempt to move arts facilities out of Manuka until the site at Kingston was ready.
“As part of the consideration of the proposal, we would of course have to speak to anyone using the Manuka Arts Centre.”
The Canberra Services Club would have been seriously impacted by any major plan to redevelop Manuka Oval had its premises adjacent to the Oval not burnt down in 2011. It is currently housed in the former site of the ACT Rugby Union Club in Barton, but seeks to find a more suitable permanent site in time.
The RiotACT has also asked the Giants whether the plan contains a Members section along the lines of those of the Melbourne Cricket Ground and Sydney Cricket Ground (Members’ pavilion pictured above), and if so, where that seating/facilities for such a section would sit in the plan. Such a move would provide guaranteed annual revenue to fund the upkeep and development of the site as well as building a loyal community around the Oval that would operate world class cricket and AFL events.
The Giants spokesman responded:
“The project includes new dedicated space for elite sports to use as corporate and hospitality spaces but, in addition, the new hotel and club could provide catering and support facilities required to meet the demands of a members section, or something similar. But ultimately this would be a consideration for the community-owned trust that we propose is set up to manage the ground for the benefit of the community in perpetuity.”
The football club will announce details of a design competition for the precinct in coming days according to a statement announcing the proposal which says, “The GIANTS will also hold a design competition, if the ACT Government proceeds with the proposal, with a design brief that is informed by the community’s ideas.”