5 March 2024

Canberra Services Club eyes hotel proposal in new bid to change Manuka site's lease

| Ian Bushnell
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talk and statue in Manuka

The Canberra Services Club site in Manuka, which has been vacant since 2011, could become a combined club and hotel. Photos: Ian Bushnell.

Canberra Services Club has reactivated its bid to change the lease for its vacant site next to Manuka Oval from concessional to market status as a first step towards a club and hotel development.

It eventually hopes to leverage the prime 2500 sqm position on Manuka Circle to provide accommodation for visitors coming to Canberra for sporting and cultural events and build a new club.

This will enable the club to diversify its income stream away from poker machines, which in turn will finance its community services, according to the Social Impact Study prepared by Purdon Planning.

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The club hopes to use government credits obtained from surrendering poker machines to develop a “strong, sustainable, diverse and community-focused club development”.

“The proposed removal of the concessional status of the lease will provide an enhanced range of options to the proponent by allowing the club being co-located with other permissible uses, such as commercial accommodation use, which will provide funding for the club’s new club space, as well as on-going funding to provide its community services,” it says.

The original heritage-listed club premises were destroyed by fire in 2011 and the site was cleared, but the club did not have the funds to rebuild. In 2015, the club acquired the Rugby Union Club in Blackall Street, Barton, and has operated out of those premises since.

The club first proposed to change its lease in 2018 to either sell or redevelop the CZ6 – Leisure and Accommodation zoned site. However, it ran into community opposition over the expected windfall gain it would enjoy and loss of community space.

In 2019, Planning Minister Mick Gentleman rejected the proposal saying it was not in the public interest. This was overturned in the Supreme Court on procedural grounds.

vacant land next to Manuka Stadium

The position next to Manuka Oval makes it ideal for a hotel to accommodate visitors to sporting and cultural events.

Purdon says this DA provides new information about how the club plans to resume operating at the site, a detailed analysis of the community profile, a future development and more consultation, including meeting with Venues Canberra.

It also comes after the ACT Government invested heavily in Manuka Oval to make it an international cricket venue and a home ground for the Greater Sydney Giants AFL team.

Purdon says the Barton purchase came at a considerable cost, and now the club must decide whether to re-establish premises on its former site or build a new one at Barton or another location.

This amended DA is only for a change to the status of the lease, not the purpose, which is to operate a club.

Colliers has valued the land with that purpose in mind at $370,000 and calculated the payout figure to the government at $185,000. In 2018, it was valued at $250,000, and the payout figure was $125,000.

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While any development proposal will require another DA to vary the lease, Purdon does flag a seven-storey building with accommodation on the upper levels and club facilities below.

“With both cricket and AFL attracting a combination of local and globalised televised spectators and on-site visitors, additional nearby accommodation could increase the chance of converting otherwise televised viewers into live on-site spectators,” the report says.

“Ultimately, the subject site is an ideal location to enable additional tourist visitation to an internationally popular boutique stadium that is highly walkable and has public transport options.”

The lease has 11 years to run.

Comment is open on the DA until 21 March.

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Surely the Government should just resume the site & incorporate it as part of Manuka Oval.

“the club did not have the funds to rebuild”….what they didn’t have insurance??? But only 4 years later (without the club trading) they could buy the RUC. All seems strange/sus to me.

That has got to be the cheapest land in Canberra, especially in Manuka!

Capital Retro4:37 pm 05 Mar 24

Ukraine has already made a good offer on the tank.

We need to stop allowing ‘community clubs’ to make windfall profits from redeveloping land they were given for free while retaining their pokies. It needs to be one or the other.

About time… that site has been an eye-sore for far too long. Just rezone it and let the club build their clubhouse/hotel/whatever. If ever there was a club that deserved a windfall from lease variation its the Servo’s, who do tremendous work in the veterans and war-widows communities in ACT.

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