13 October 2022

Businesses in dark as office block plans compound coming light rail disruption

| Ian Bushnell
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Courts car park

The law courts car park where a new government office block will be built, about the same time as Light Rail Stage 2A. Photo: Ian Bushnell.

Civic West businesses are keen to hear from the ACT Government about how light rail construction will affect them, particularly with a new office block to go up on the law courts car park on the corner of Northbourne Avenue and London Circuit.

It’s going to be a busy corner as track is laid from Alinga Street into London Circuit. At about the same time, an 11-storey office tower is being constructed, compounding the impending disruption businesses will suffer.

Business owners are restive about the government’s recent lack of communication, even as the precursor project of raising London Circuit gets underway and it announces the sale of Block 40 Section 100, where the federal Department of Education, Department of Employment and Workplace Relations and the Australian Electoral Commission will make their home in a new state-of-the-art building.

READ MORE Commanding city corner move for three federal departments/agencies after land sale

To be known as London Quarter, it will add thousands of public servants to the city centre, eventually benefiting businesses, as will light rail.

But the question for many is how they will survive the construction period, including the loss of parking, street access and the dust and noise that will deter customers as it did in Gungahlin and Mitchell when Stage 1 was being built.

The government began talking to affected businesses late last year and has established a Disruption Taskforce.

Recently businesses have requested more consultation, but there has been little response from government.

They fear that, like last time, consultation will be a last-minute affair, even though the government says it has learned the lessons from Stage 1 and has committed to keeping businesses in the loop and helping them through the process.

New DEWR, Education building

The proposed new federal government offices on the corner of Northbourne Avenue and London Circuit. Photo: Supplied.

The City Renewal Authority said it was working closely with the preferred tenderer for Block 40 Section 100 and other relevant government areas to minimise the impact of the anticipated sale and development of the site and surrounding area.

“Relevant mitigations will be confirmed following completion of the sale and finalisation of a construction program by the preferred tenderer,” a spokesperson said.

The construction will mean the loss of 280 parking spaces that serve businesses and the ACT law courts.

The spokesperson said City Centre still had more than 14,000 available car spaces and the developer was required to provide replacement public parking as part of the new development.

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It was hoped that many of those government workers will opt for an alternative to using a car.

“The site is ideally located on the planned light rail stage 2A route around London Circuit, as well as being close to bus and active travel options,” the spokesperson said.

“End-of-trip facilities will be incorporated in the design of the new building to encourage active travel.”

The CRA says the new development, along with Light Rail Stage 2A, will be a once-in-a-decade opportunity to accelerate the City Centre’s renewal.

“The development will place thousands of workers immediately alongside Canberra’s premier Civic and Culture District, provide stimulation to local businesses, and is expected to contribute to an active and resilient precinct,” the spokesperson said.

The other key corner site on Northbourne Avenue and London Circuit, Block 23, Section 19, is listed in the Indicative Land Release Program and set for release in 2025-2026.

Its development will remove another surface car park and mesh with the proposed cultural precinct project, including the new Canberra Theatre.

The spokesperson said the CRA had prepared a draft Canberra Civic and Culture District concept to guide the creation of a dynamic hub in the City Centre.

“This draft concept considers both the linkages and interfaces with other key ACT Government infrastructure projects such as Stage 2A of Light Rail and the raising of London Circuit to support connectivity to and within the new district.”

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Oh bother…..how dare the government disrupt the lives of a few who live in a ‘vanilla’ world.

HiddenDragon8:35 pm 14 Oct 22

A drowning-in-debt government flogs off a nice piece of land, an office building will go up on it, and public servants will be shuffled into it (until the next re-organization) and that’s it.

Trying to spin this as something more than business as usual for Canberra is just sad, even more so the suggestion that concentrations of back office public servants will contribute to some sort of cultural renaissance for Civic – wishful thinking which amounts to Harry Lime’s cuckoo clock speech inverted (perhaps by the Coriolis Effect?).

At best, this will likely be a zero sum game for the Civic West businesses which survive the years of disruption.

Factual reporting please. This will NOT “add thousands of public servants to the city centre”. It simply moves existing staff from Garema Court, 50 Marcus Clarke St and several buildings in Mort Street. Tired of spin from developers.

Many of which would be working from home many days of the week.
A completely predictable outcome in 5 years 90% of the public service will spend most of their time at home

bye bye carparks, bye bye businesses.

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