12 June 2019

Community council calls for stay on bulldozing of Woden CIT site

| Ian Bushnell
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Woden CIT complex

The old student services building at Woden CIT. The site is set to be cleared. Photos: George Tsotsos.

Plans to tear down the Woden CIT complex should be put on hold until there is a long-term plan for the broader area, including the needs of Canberra Hospital, according to the Woden Valley Community Council.

Indesco has lodged a development application to demolish the ageing complex on the corner of Hindmarsh Drive and Ainsworth Street in Phillip.

It proposes the demolition of eight buildings, structures, pavements, disconnection and removal of services, and removal of non-regulated trees and asbestos at a cost of $4 million.

There are not any future land uses proposed at this stage for the prime 5.5-hectare site, which is zoned Community Facility.

The council says in its development application submission that the buildings should remain until a commitment to a new build requires their demolition.

Woden Valley Community Council president Fiona Carrick said it could be a missed opportunity if the site was cleared before a long-term master plan for the broader Woden Town Centre and Canberra Hospital precinct was developed identifying areas of community need and sites for facilities.

“We don’t want to see it demolished and have our opportunities closed down on us,” she said.

Ms Carrick said the council would like to see the site used in conjunction with Canberra Hospital as a health and training centre, saying there was no reason why the buildings could not be refurbished.

“Say in 20 years’ time they need that site because Canberra Hospital is constrained and they need it for allied health or education,” she said.

The council says the site could also be a viable university campus on the south side. But it fears that the site, once cleared, could be given over to housing.

“While we want social housing, we don’t think that site is suitable. There are greater opportunities for synergies with Canberra Hospital,” she said.

Ms Carrick said that at this stage there was no sign of what the Government intended for the site.

“Once it’s demolished it makes it pretty easy to sell to developers. That’s my worry – that once it’s demolished the process just happens,” she said.

The council says in its submission that until the purpose of the site is determined in the context of Master Plans for the Canberra Hospital and the broader Woden Town Centre, opportunities should not be eliminated by demolishing the buildings.

CIT announced in 2015 that the Woden campus would close as part of its modernisation process, after the Government said it would spend $11 million on a new campus in Tuggeranong. It eventually closed its doors last year.

Now there is talk of Reid CIT relocating to a new facility in Woden, with the Government ordering a scoping study to identify a possible new site.

The Government was approached for comment.

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What the WVCC is saying is quite right, but the buildings should not just be left to rot. They will attract vandals, graffitists, squatters, arsonists, druggies et al. If the developer’s mate, Andrew Barr, is going to sell it off, it’s better to do it quickly than let the site face a slow death.

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