The signs are looking good that the Belconnen Town Centre urban renewal program will deliver a good outcome for the community but the clear message to the ACT Government is that it must not end up like Woden where community facilities have not kept pace with high-rise residential development.
The Suburban Land Agency has identified three parcels of land for release and has gone to the community asking what it would like to see in these areas.
The three parcels are the Circus and former water police sites on Emu Bank and the Lathlain Street strip on the former police and emergency services site, and the SLA is now in the co-design phase of the engagement program ahead of a Place Design Brief being released in April.
Lathlain Street, with an increasing mix of business, community and residential uses, and the Circus Land Release Sites are zoned CZ2 Business Zone and CZ1 Core Zone, while the Former Water Police Land Release Site is zoned CZ6 Leisure and Accommodation.
Feedback so far has included calls for an intimate urban experience, better connections between precincts, open and green spaces and activated street fronts including cafes, restaurants and bars.
Belconnen Community Council chair Glen Hyde said he was happy with the consultation so far and the SLA had done well to identify the land parcels, how they connect with other infrastructure and possible impacts for ongoing use.
He said the council wanted to see all the precincts linked up so there was a unified Town Centre from Coulter Drive to the expanded University of Canberra.
“After a decade of master planning consultation and precinct coding, we want to see something that provides community facilities, good quality access, and link the mall and then the rest of the precinct together all the way down to the university – a safe environment, a readily accessible environment for all users and giving people active travel options,” he said.
But it did not want further high-rise development that boosted the Town Centre’s population without the community facilities and spaces to service those residents.
“The thing that we’re most focused on is that we don’t have another Cirrus project [two waterfront towers] go up somewhere which for all intents and purpose will be wonderful for the residents who are in there but where do they take their kids, what are their options to go and have recreation,” Mr Hyde said.
This planning for community infrastructure had not been done well during the building boom under the Barr Government, he said.
“We got people in to build but what we didn’t do was properly map out what support needs to be there when we bring more people in,” Mr Hyde said.
Mr Hyde said this development phase also needed to be better managed to minimise the kind of traffic disruption that had marked the construction of Geocon’s High Society precinct nearby, saying there was a broader lesson to be learned for the urban infill program.
“Traffic disruption has to be first thing that’s looked at. It’s a part of the process we need to do a bucket-load more work on,” he said.
To learn more go to the government’s YourSay website.