22 September 2020

Booming Woden on cusp of Town Centre transformation

| Ian Bushnell
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Grand Central Towers

Grand Central Towers will be home to more than a 1000 residents, with the new CIT and public transport interchange to be built next door. Photo: Supplied.

The Woden Town Centre after hours can be a lonely place but all that is about to change.

While there are residential towers on the Town Centre’s edges, Geocon and Zapari’s Grand Central Towers will soon inject more than a 1000 people into the very heart of Woden.

On the western side, the refurbished Alexander and Albemarle buildings are complete and a development application is imminent from Zapari for a 400-unit, mixed-use development on a site to the south on Corinna Street, the first stage of a project that will eventually hold 600 apartments.

In the first half of next year, Geocon will release to the market apartments from its massive WOVA development on which it hopes to start work later in 2021.

Geocon managing director Nick Georgalis said the company was finalising aspects of the project with the planning authority but a start on the four-building, 800-apartment project on the site of the old Woden Tradies and the Quality Hotel on Launceston Street was in sight.

One of the buildings will be a signature 24-storey tower, and Mr Georgalis said the entire project should be a 25 to 30-month build and add another couple of thousand of people to the Town Centre.

Geocon's WOVA development

An artist’s impression of Geocon’s WOVA development. Image: Geocon.

Zapari chief executive Nick Skepev said its next Woden project on a three-block site bounded by Melrose Drive, Brewer Street and Corinna Street would include retail space, a hotel and even some community facilities.

The Cox Architecture-designed towers would be 12 to 16 storeys, but articulated up to the Town Centre, and incorporate cross-ventilated and north-facing apartments.

Mr Skepev said the project would be a true mixed-use development and rejuvenate an area that had been allowed to run down in recent years.

”We’re working with stakeholders and the government to activate the foot traffic areas, the retail walkways,” he said.

Zapari's planned mixed-use development

The site of Zapari’s planned mixed-use development on Corinna Street across from Westfield. A DA is imminent. Photo: Ian Bushnell.

”One building has been vacant for four to five years, so the community is always looking to something happening for these old derelict buildings.”

Mr Skepev views Woden as the geographical centre of Canberra.

”Personally I like Woden, it’s an emerging Town Centre – light rail, CIT, the hospital. It’s great to see the government investing,” he said.

Nearby, residents have started moving into Doma’s 186-apartment Alexander and Albemarle refurbishment that resurrected old Commonwealth public service buildings that had been derelict for years.

This development will also have ground-floor commercial tenancies to activate the area.

Across the road, Doma is also planning a four-building mixed-use and office development on a block it bought earlier this year for $12.5 million.

The revitalised Alexander and Albemarle buildings

The revitalised Alexander and Albemarle buildings. Photo: Ian Bushnell.

Doma plans to deliver 480 apartments across three of the buildings and heights range from 12 to 20 storeys.

Mr Georgalis said that based on what was going to be delivered over the next few years there will be 5000 people living in the Town Centre, creating huge demand for hospitality and other businesses.

That demand and amenity had been missing in Woden, and Geocon wanted to supply world-class amenity and lots of it.

Mr Georgalis said the company learnt from every project and what it had achieved with Republic in Belconnen would feed into WOVA.

”It’s all about the evolution of the project and the end-users’ experience,” he said. “It creates a precinct and a destination in its own right, so it really is the changing face of the city of Canberra.”

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Just goes to show development is happening anyway, Woden doesn’t need the slow expensive red elephant light rail when it already has fast buses, a busway would be better, plus there are already CIT campuses elsewhere, so that’s also wasteful election candy. If its getting a lot of residential that will help the night economy but it also needs offices filled through the day (unless we all work from home long term). A master plan needs to guide the ground level development, otherwise it could become soulless high rise dormitory suburb eg why not leverage the sports facilities, build an arts/cultural centre, entertainment precinct etc.

michael quirk7:46 am 21 Sep 20

Interesting. Booming, like the Belconnen Town Centre despite the the absence of light rail. Maybe light rail is not fundamental to its future given its location on the inter-town public transport route well served by buses.

Additional residential is welcome as are facilities such as the CIT. There is a need to ensure recreation and community facilities are provided and, importantly, Commonwealth office employment is attracted.

Fiona Carrick10:55 pm 20 Sep 20

It is true that there are a lot of apartments that will bring people to the centre of Woden. So far we have around 25 towers earmarked with around 10,000 people and this is the first of many.
This will bring more cafes and restaurants. Ian, can you tell me where the heart of Woden and the entertainment precinct for bands will be?
The Master Plan says it is the Town Square however it also zoned for 28 storey buildings on its perimeter. This will leave it in shadows and not attractive to hang out.
Where will the community hub be, the culture and the recreation precinct.
We need to be careful that we don’t end up with a concrete jungle of high rises. Who is overseeing the social and economic development of the Woden Town Centre to ensure it will have great public spaces and community facilities in the future? It looks like it is the developers.
I wonder what the forecast population is and if any traffic modelling has been done?
Fiona Carrick
Independent candidate for Murrumbidgee

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