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Curtin shops developer breaks silence as ACAT appeal delays project start

By Ian Bushnell 15 February 2019 54

A render showing the unit block and new traders’ premises at the Curtin shops. Image supplied.

The team behind the redevelopment at the Curtin shops has broken its silence, expressing frustration at another legal hurdle being put in the project’s way by the Curtin Residents Association, which is now contesting how the plans were approved.

The developer, the Haridemos family, has been reluctant to comment but their representatives now say the delay is putting everybody concerned under pressure and that any further scaling back of the revised and now approved project will put its commercial viability at risk.

The Residents Association, spearheaded by Chris Johnson, has been campaigning for more than two years against the Haridemos family’s plans to redevelop the Curtin Place premises and build a multi-storey shopping and residential building on the western side of the centre, arguing that the proposal was too big, would overshadow the square and was out of step with the village character of the shops.

In the process the building to be replaced was closed about a year ago, traders relocated and asbestos removed.

The planning authority rejected the original application for a six-storey building, including 50 units, but the Haridemos family resubmitted scaled back plans for a five-storey building and 36 units in the middle of last year, which were approved with conditions in December, about the same time as the Curtin Master Plan was adopted.

Now the Association has taken the planning authority to the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal, and will argue that the decision process was flawed and, despite the proposal’s changes, will maintain that the new building is still too big and will harm the character of the shops.

But the family’s representatives dismiss these concerns, saying the proposal is now compliant with the Territory Plan and Curtin Master Plan and another delay only hurts the centre’s businesses and the residents, and imposes unnecessary costs on the lease holder.

JGS Property’s Director Project and Development Management Zelko Mandic says there is a continuing loss of opportunity and revenue, and the centre is in decline.

“It’s difficult, difficult for the business community, difficult for the Curtin residents, difficult for the precinct as a whole. You can see a decline,” he said.

“It’s very much unfortunate from the point of view of the client, the business community and broader residents that this has taken as long as it has.”

Mr Mandic says concessions have been made in response to the community’s concerns and he believes that the project as approved will not impose itself on the central square or overshadow it as claimed.

He says the multi-storey residential component of the project now sits in the south-west corner of the site and is aligned with the Coles supermarket.

The multi-storey residential component of the project is aligned with the Coles supermarket. File photo.

As well as losing a floor, the ground floor height has also been reduced as part of the revised plans.

Consultant Tania Parkes, who conducted an extensive community consultation, says this is the equivalent of reducing the height by two storeys.

“It lost quite a lot of the height and the bulk. While the footprint of the building is the same, the height of the building has been brought back from the north so there’s only a single storey facing the courtyard,” she said.

As for the ageing shops’ character, Mr Mandic questions whether it really has one, and says the project seeks to provide economic and social benefits, and new amenity.

“I don’t know that the square has a character other than one of a tired square that requires capital injection. That’s a view that has been shared by the business community broadly and what this project seeks to contribute to the square,” he said.

“The lease holder is very mindful of community opinion, mindful of business needs, very mindful of the broader intent and plan for the Curtin precinct.”

Ms Parkes says the centre’s traders are hoping that the project will be a catalyst for upgrading other buildings in the area that date from the 1960s.

They have been collateral damage in the process with businesses having to relocate when their leases were up and the building closed in anticipation of the original development application being approved, while those remaining in the centre have suffered.

Many of them have petitioned Planning Minister Mick Gentleman for the project to go ahead.

Curtin residents Paul and Michelle Cains operated Urban Cellars at the centre for five years and are looking forward to reopening in the new building.

Mr Cains believes it’s time for the redevelopment to get under way and that businesses in the centre are hurting.

He’s particularly concerned that the ongoing dispute and loss of trade may put the anchor tenant, the Coles supermarket, at risk.

The couple feel that the Residents Association has not accurately represented them, particularly in the current action.

“All development proposals have strengths and weaknesses, and in our opinion the developer has done a great deal to address the concerns raised during the consultation process,” he said.

“Other Curtin businesses – owned and run by friends of ours – are now showing signs of the detrimental impact of these protracted protests. We are keen to return to running our business in a revitalised Curtin shopping precinct – and we are raising our family in the area and we want to have a vibrant and future-focused community shopping centre for the coming decades.”

Mr Cains welcomed the residential component of the project, saying it will mean 100 new customers for the centre.

Mr Mandic also rejects claims that traders were forced out. He says the original traders knew when their leases expired and were given plenty of notice before the building was closed as part of the proposal’s project management, with the Haridemos family assisting some to find temporary premises and securing a site for the chemist.

“It’s not as if there was some arbitrary, short-notice decision around when you board it up,” he said.

Ms Parkes questions whether the Residents Association is now truly representative of the community, considering the number of emails she has received asking for the developer to get on with it. She believes many people who had been opposed to the project are now happy with the revised proposal, and simply want their shops back.

Mr Mandic says the team is confident that ACAT will uphold the approval decision and it can get on with delivering the project.

“We’re very confident as an application that right and due process has been followed,” he said.

“As a project, the entire project team is right to be confident that the right outcome will be achieved once we come out of the ACAT process.”

If all goes to plan, Curtin could have its new shops and units by early 2020.

A directions hearing is set down for  Monday 18 February.


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33 Responses to
Curtin shops developer breaks silence as ACAT appeal delays project start
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Stephen W Read 11:46 am 09 Mar 19

The Curtin shop debacle must stop. The Residents Association should now butt out, they made some valid points in the start and they achieved some changes. They should be satisfied. Let’s get the development underway, nitpicking is killing the shopping centre and I for one am pissed off!

Xtra 10:12 pm 08 Mar 19

Let them get on with the development- the shops are begging to be updated. The Residents Association is being unnecessarily obstructionist.

The cat did it 6:19 pm 21 Feb 19

The revised development proposal made a few concessions, but still failed to address a number of basic issues like shading and parking.
The proposal asserted that because there had been little development in Curtin in recent years, a 2011 traffic survey was still relevant. Wrong. Development in suburbs to the west of Curtin has increased demand. Finding a park at lunchtime is now almost impossible. That’s why more and more cars are parking in Gillies St, behind the churches.
Sunlight access is critical to the amenity of the Square, but the revised development proposal fudged this also, by presenting data that only covered the middle of the day, and particularly not the late afternoon, when use of the Square is heaviest.
This sob story from the developers should be seen for what it is- crocodile tears.

Ana 5:26 pm 21 Feb 19

What came out of the AAT the other day?

Ana 5:23 pm 21 Feb 19

I am for going ahead. I know from other similar developments overseas, that having residents looking over the square will provide a lot of security to those using the square and in and out of the shops. With one floor being effectively replaced on the square increasing on the south west corner is an ideal solution. Let’s get going on the development and return Curtin shops to their new glory.

7:09 pm 17 Feb 19

Should be awesome once competed, lots of new shops,new vibe, can’t wait, let’s go

6:32 am 16 Feb 19

It’s refreshing to read comments from those who want to see the revised proposal move forward. As a long term Curtin resident the association does not reflect my views. Maybe the residents association can find a new cause to fill their time and let Curtin residents have their shops back.

12:39 am 16 Feb 19

Jenni when did your lease expire? My lease was for 4 years and 9 months

11:15 pm 15 Feb 19

Thank you Curtin Residents’ Association for not not allowing the Haridemos family and the Barr Government to hold the residents of Curtin hostage to its awful proposed development.

6:30 pm 15 Feb 19

It’s time for the development to move forward. I really feel for the businesses over at Curtin, having been one and moved to Yarralumla due to the down turn caused by the halt of the development. Many of the shop owners are afraid to say what they really think because the residents association are their clients. Me too! At this stage it feels as thought the residents association won’t find any kind of development ascetically pleasing. The place needs a make over and the development needs to move forward. Also, the signs, posters and bullying (I’ve seen it all) is far less appealing to the character of the shops than the development being proposed.

5:26 pm 15 Feb 19

Just let them build whatever, their investment(cough, greed) has wrecked the place and memories now anyway. Character lost.

    9:51 pm 15 Feb 19

    Jenni Lawton they’ve kicked out the cool tenants and demolished the cool buildings, vibe now gone.

4:11 pm 15 Feb 19

To be honest though most complaints now are people who will never be happy. A single story next to the square is what was there before, so it will remain sunny and the number of apartments scaled back, plus it is not consuming car park space either. I'd love to know what real objection people can have now.

    7:34 pm 15 Feb 19

    Jenni Lawton to be fair, apart from being a registered lobbyist, I am a social planner practising nationally for over 20 years and an IAP2 practitioner.

    During the June 2016 pre-DA consultations approximately 9,500 residential, commercial and community premises within a 1.5km to 2km radius of Block 7 Section 62 Curtin were letterboxed oversized postcards with contact details to register to participate in the engagement activities for the proposed development.

    Seven hundred and sixty six (766) interactions occurred with members of the local community and 1,233 unique website visitors sought further information and participated in the consultation process through a range of activities including three public meetings with access to the developer and consultant team.

    The consultant team participated in and presented during the 2018 6-8 month EPSDD hosted Stakeholder Reference Panel to finalise the Draft Curtin Group Centre Master Plan.

    The CRA was invited to meet the consultant team on several occasions to inform design work until in June 2018 they declined to meet until completion of the Master Plan.

    9:44 pm 17 Feb 19

    Tania Parkes bty we were one of the few in Curtin who did not receive one of your cards. But we were told of the first meeting by so many people that we would not have missed out.

chrisJ 3:41 pm 15 Feb 19

This is mainly self-serving from the developer: they would say this, wouldn’t they! The Curtin Residents Association believes that there are still real defects in the proposed building project in the bulk and height causing visual impacts and overshadowing, at its size and position; and there is no change in the risks to pedestrian safety and difficulty of services at the rear of the building. We are concerned about the long term future of the Curtin centre. The building has been closed by the developer’s choice for over a year, not because of actions by anybody else in government or residents: the developer is responsible for all the impact on other businesses around the square. The developer ejected all the tenants many months before making a (very late) application to reconsider the proposal, and the government processes do take more months to deliver any decision – even if there had been no objections.
Chris Johnson – President, Curtin Residents Association

10:25 am 15 Feb 19

I objected to the original proposal. The revised plan addressed all of the concerns I had. I am one of those who think it should go ahead now.

9:04 am 15 Feb 19

Is any 'Residents' association', truly representative of the community?

    12:26 pm 15 Feb 19

    A community has as many views as there are people who comprise it. The Curtin Residents Association primarily represents the views of its hundreds of members. People who are not prepared to join cannot complain if they are not represented.

    1:02 pm 15 Feb 19

    Hundreds of members! I have been a few times to a community meeting (not Curtin) and they would be lucky to have a dozen members, so Curtin must be unique.

    3:04 pm 15 Feb 19

    You bet. As the saying is: You're hurtin' if you're not living in Curtin 😀

    7:06 pm 15 Feb 19

    Ann Parkinson Ann why would people join a group that they oppose the view of though?

    8:47 pm 15 Feb 19

    Travissi Gilbert if you get involved it helps.

    8:28 am 16 Feb 19

    Roxanne Ebina To put their point of view (there will be others who agree with them as there is no one single point of view in any organisation). To discuss the issues (to find out what really constitutes others' points of view). To find out the facts (as opposed to hearsay). To meet people with views different from their own (and thus why they hold those views). To work toward a more equitable and just society (where all views are heard). To meet more of their community, neighbourhood, suburb or interest group. To meet really interesting people.

    9:25 am 16 Feb 19

    Roxanne Ebina https://www.canberratimes.com.au/national/act/the-place-is-dead-more-join-fight-for-curtin-development-s-approval-20190215-p50y4w.html#comments

    10:44 am 16 Feb 19

    Ann Parkinson all of that sounds lovely, it’s just that the associations public position is so one sided and inflexible that I’d rather play a round of golf or play in the park with my daughter than listen to a bunch of opinions I disagree with. I’m quite capable of reading the proposals and finding the facts for myself. To have them filtered through through an organisation just isn’t for me, thankfully I am free to express them here if I wish.

    10:32 pm 20 Feb 19

    Ann Parkinson how are you invited to the organization?

7:52 am 15 Feb 19

It’s a bit rich to complain about delay and costs when they turfed out the tenants and boarded up the shops for months and months on end.

    5:57 am 16 Feb 19

    Fact check: the tenants were not "turfed out", our leases ended and were not renewed.

    11:35 am 16 Feb 19

    Martin my clarification is factual.

    1:28 pm 16 Feb 19

    Martin, as a tenant who also closed a business there, I can assure you that our leases had ended. We want the opportunity to see a revitalised shopping precinct for the future of our suburb.

7:46 am 15 Feb 19

Build it already, hate those shops need to be modernised

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