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Braddon: Green village to apartments

By Paul Costigan - 11 March 2015 18

The Australian Government created the suburb of Braddon in the 1920s-1930s to provide housing for the new capital’s service workers and public sector employees. No private developers had any interest in making the investment. So much for the free market taking up opportunities!

braddon 3

But today, so much has changed. Any developer would now love to get their hands on a residential site anywhere within Braddon to deliver multi-storey apartments.

The suburb has a full gamut of housing from student towers to social housing, heritage houses and bungalow homes that have been extended over the years. There is a range of economic and social styles— all interacting with each other on a day-to-day basis.

At one end of the suburb, the dwellings are protected by ACT Heritage legislation that makes life ‘interesting’ for the owners who wish to renovate for the 21st century.

Along Ainslie Avenue are some of Canberra’s oldest social housing stocks, with some due for demolition. Elsewhere many 1960s houses are vanishing as the apartments have come to dominate. Some apartments are attractive, but too many are the cheap rendered variety, and are cracking up enormously.

The character of the streetscapes has altered, with parked cars jammed into every available space—a result of the legislated planning inadequacies within the government’s infill policies. The heavy demand for parking has also led to parking on the verges around the established trees, which is compacting the ground and results in less water getting to the roots of the trees.

braddon

Braddon includes within its boundaries such notable buildings as Gorman House Arts Centre and the historic Ainslie School –a bit strange to have the Braddon school named after the adjacent suburb. At the other end is Northbourne Ave, which is lined with office blocks. Many of these could be changing soon with the upgrade of the avenue as a main development corridor.

Braddon used to have a light industrial section, mainly for auto related commercial activity, but most of that has been moved on to make way for the zone to become an entertainment/ residential/ café precinct. This new use is already impacting on the surrounding suburb.

Cutting through the centre of Braddon is Haig Park. These rows of trees have long passed their use-by date for the purpose for which they were planted, being a windbreak for the new suburb to the south. This was once a no-go zone for the casual pedestrian, being a dangerous place to be particularly in the after hours. Given the increases in number of residents, more people wander through and picnic in these open spaces, so it now feels a little safer.

Soon it is hoped that the ACT Government will link this park to other green belts. Such an Inner North Greenway could make its way down from Hackett, along a revamped Dickson Drain, through to Turner and then back into Braddon and to join again with Ainslie.

Many of the streets are cloaked in greenery that becomes a miraculous golden display in autumn. The danger is that that the valuable biodiversity of the suburb will be reduced as apartments and larger houses fill out the blocks and reduce the opportunities for substantial private gardens.

All this brings us back to an overall plan for Braddon. I am not sure there is such a current vision. I have not been able to track down a Braddon residents group. So unlike Reid nearby, I wonder whether there are locals keeping an eye on the planning proposals by the notorious planning authority.

braddon 2There should be a published contemporary master plan for this whole suburb to provide security for those things that make this inner suburb so attractive. Sadly the signs are that as the density increases, the character of the place is slowly being eroded through an ad hoc approach to planning and development.

It need not be so. Is there a vacancy here for a visionary politician or two?

What’s Your opinion?


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18 Responses to
Braddon: Green village to apartments
Masquara 8:44 pm 13 Mar 15

Which would you rather – Haig Park as is with its heritage listing – or the park turned into exclusive housing? Those’ll be the options, folks!

Masquara 8:42 pm 13 Mar 15

Dame Canberra said :

moneypenny2612 said :

With all the apartments and lack of communal spaces, Braddon needs a community garden. They should use Veg Out in St Kilda as an inspiration (it’s a reclaimed lawn bowls club, and is brilliant).

The hipsters who complain that Supabarn/ALDI are too far away could volunteer in the gardens and

Yes! That’s the best suggestion I’ve read on this site in a while. Would love to see this happen.

I suspect neither of you has walked or cycled around Braddon, or you would have discovered the community vege garden on Limestone just about opposite Haig Park! : 0

Grrrr 3:12 pm 13 Mar 15

It’s not strange to have the Ainslie School in Braddon if you understand that the school was opened a year before the gazetting of the suburb.

http://www.ainslies.act.edu.au/our_history/Interesting_facts_and_architectural_features

Haig Park’s “daytime strangeness” hasn’t changed much in 10 years. Maybe 20 years ago it was worse, but I wouldn’t know. It could certainly be more amenable but “winding bike paths” through it is inane – consider the dirt tracks currently worn into it a guide as to what would be useful path-wise. Heritage value doesn’t seem to equate with attractiveness or amenity, but I guess it doesn’t have to.

creative_canberran 2:06 am 13 Mar 15

Haig Park is no more a park than the concrete drains in Woden are rivers. It served its practical purpose, now it’s time for parts of it to be overhauled. At the moment everything about its design makes it unsafe and uninviting. Poor lighting and pathways, poor line of sights and certain neighbouring developments mean by day it’s an area where you should keep an eye out but are generally okay, but as it get’s dark stay clear.

The Draft Master Plan for the park was a cop out. No major structural changes, very reliant on just letting the trees die off naturally to open up space with some minor additions.The storm water drain would remain just a boring concrete channel.

Dame Canberra 8:04 pm 11 Mar 15

moneypenny2612 said :

With all the apartments and lack of communal spaces, Braddon needs a community garden. They should use Veg Out in St Kilda as an inspiration (it’s a reclaimed lawn bowls club, and is brilliant).

The hipsters who complain that Supabarn/ALDI are too far away could volunteer in the gardens and

Yes! That’s the best suggestion I’ve read on this site in a while. Would love to see this happen.

moneypenny2612 7:46 pm 11 Mar 15

With all the apartments and lack of communal spaces, Braddon needs a community garden. They should use Veg Out in St Kilda as an inspiration (it’s a reclaimed lawn bowls club, and is brilliant).

The hipsters who complain that Supabarn/ALDI are too far away could volunteer in the gardens and harvest their organic fruit and vegetables.

The Braddon tennis and bowls club would be ideal for a community garden, as it has a nice northern orientation. I used to live next door in an original cottage that had remnants of its old-fashioned Greek family garden (figs, apples, pears, grapes, olives, and persimmons). And room for a goat to graze. Fun times.

I do think it is a bit of a pity that so many of the original Braddon detached and semi-detached houses have been flattened for fairly mediocre apartment blocks. I don’t oppose in-fill – but Braddon’s residential in-fill is so boring, and some of it not very pleasant to live in.

The commercial revamp is fine and good fun. Wonder if it will last, though.

Maya123 4:06 pm 11 Mar 15

Paul Costigan said :

I agree. Haig Park definitely remains scary at nighttime. A decade or two ago, it was also a ‘strange’ place any time of the day.

I am not a fan of trees being planted in regimented lines – as is with Haig Park.

I would very much like this park to remain a park, with just as many if not more trees. With so many apartments being built in the area, this green space is important. I realise that some will cry ‘heritage’ – but I suggest it is time for some new ideas for this fabulous green space.

Changes (and more lights) should be introduced to make it far more attractive to be used by people for all sorts of reasons – rather than just looking like some form of memorial.

There are many ideas I could suggest. One idea being to insert a major pathway running west to east – from Froggatt St Turner, across Northbourne and through to where it meets Limestone Ave. It could be a dual pathway; one for people to meander along plus a separate path for cyclists. It should not be a straight line but bend all over the place to make it more interesting (and fun) and join the pedestrian crossing at Northbourne (and the light rail). It could then join up with the North/South ANU/Dickson cycle path in Turner. It would have to be well lit after dark.

Haig Park needs significant changes to encourage more people into the space. And more people being around will make it feel safer.

But everyone may have to wear special helmets given the presence of those predators, the Powerful Owl!!

“It should not be a straight line”

No, please not another winding bike path. Design it properly and make it straight for efficiency. I am tempted to say a walking path could wind if that’s what people wanted, but I suspect then, even if two paths were created with the idea to keep people walking and cycling separate, if the cycling path were straight, but the walking path was not, a lot of walkers would use the straighter cycling path. So to discourage that happening, any paths both need to be straight.

dungfungus 4:03 pm 11 Mar 15

How about this concept from Austin, Texas.
Kind of like a private sector public housing estate.
Perfect for Canberra inner-city hipsters.
http://impactnews.com/austin-metro/central-austin/micro-unit-residential-project-coming-to-east-austin/

Kalliste 4:00 pm 11 Mar 15

Agreed on the ‘Haig Park is scary” front. I can’t say that it has improved. I’d never walk through there alone at night and am hesitant to do so during the day. As others mentioned, it needs to be better lit.

It would be good if there were more areas to sit as well as currently there are a few old tables and chairs scattered throughout but nothing really that enticing that would make you want to stick around.

VYBerlinaV8_is_back 3:11 pm 11 Mar 15

Paul Costigan said :

agree with the great suggestion – “gardens, play equipment for kids, permanent park furniture like benches and chairs, maybe a pond, some public art installations”

and there are more things I could list

But I am suggesting it is possible to do all that and keep the number of trees – it would be just how and where the new ones are planted.

Oh no – I can hear the ‘heritage’ cry coming soon!!

I’m sure that with some sensible thinking we could achieve a very nice balance of open areas, trees and other amenities, it’s just a matter of doing some planning. Perhaps keep some groups of trees but look for places where trees are dying or distressed, and replace or remove these ones. Some new and interesting plants would be good too.

Perhaps run a public competition for design ideas to get buy in from the public?

Paul Costigan 2:52 pm 11 Mar 15

agree with the great suggestion – “gardens, play equipment for kids, permanent park furniture like benches and chairs, maybe a pond, some public art installations”

and there are more things I could list

But I am suggesting it is possible to do all that and keep the number of trees – it would be just how and where the new ones are planted.

Oh no – I can hear the ‘heritage’ cry coming soon!!

Paul Costigan 2:42 pm 11 Mar 15

I agree. Haig Park definitely remains scary at nighttime. A decade or two ago, it was also a ‘strange’ place any time of the day.

I am not a fan of trees being planted in regimented lines – as is with Haig Park.

I would very much like this park to remain a park, with just as many if not more trees. With so many apartments being built in the area, this green space is important. I realise that some will cry ‘heritage’ – but I suggest it is time for some new ideas for this fabulous green space.

Changes (and more lights) should be introduced to make it far more attractive to be used by people for all sorts of reasons – rather than just looking like some form of memorial.

There are many ideas I could suggest. One idea being to insert a major pathway running west to east – from Froggatt St Turner, across Northbourne and through to where it meets Limestone Ave. It could be a dual pathway; one for people to meander along plus a separate path for cyclists. It should not be a straight line but bend all over the place to make it more interesting (and fun) and join the pedestrian crossing at Northbourne (and the light rail). It could then join up with the North/South ANU/Dickson cycle path in Turner. It would have to be well lit after dark.

Haig Park needs significant changes to encourage more people into the space. And more people being around will make it feel safer.

But everyone may have to wear special helmets given the presence of those predators, the Powerful Owl!!

VYBerlinaV8_is_back 2:36 pm 11 Mar 15

I have long had an interest in Braddon, as I have property there. I’ve watched the transformation from run down commercial centre to hipster paradise with some amusement.

I think the best thing the ACT govt could do to really improve the area would be to redevelop Haig Park into an area that people could actually use. I don’t mean building more dwellings, but rather removing some of the trees and putting in new gardens, play equipment for kids, permanent park furniture like benches and chairs, maybe a pond, some public art installations, etc. At the moment Haig Park is dark, uninviting and has bad vibes. Redeveloping it into a place that attracted a variety of people, and implementing some subtle planning to ward off the undesirables, would be an enormous improvement, benefit a lot of people and not necessarily cost that much to do.

How about it, ACT gov?

Milly Withers 12:28 pm 11 Mar 15

Alexandra Craig said :

It’s still a bit scary to me. I only walk through there during the day, and if I walk through at night my rule is to only do it if the Mandalay Bus is still open so there’s people around to hear my screams!

I think it needs to be better lit. It has lights lining the footpath, but half the time they’re not on and when they are on the lights are very dim.

Me too! I still consider Haig Park a no-go zone for the casual pedestrian, but I’m a bit less terrified of walking through the area at night now that a giant bird- and marsupial-eating owl has taken up residence: http://www.9news.com.au/national/2015/03/04/03/29/owl-pictured-devouring-ringtail-possum-at-canberra-park.

If it can hunt and devour cockatoos, it can probably take on most things that will try to attack in the dark 😉

Alexandra Craig 12:15 pm 11 Mar 15

Interesting article. I didn’t know that Haig Park was originally intended for windbreak!

It’s still a bit scary to me. I only walk through there during the day, and if I walk through at night my rule is to only do it if the Mandalay Bus is still open so there’s people around to hear my screams!

I think it needs to be better lit. It has lights lining the footpath, but half the time they’re not on and when they are on the lights are very dim.

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