Cut the planning shackles so Manuka hotel project isn’t delayed

Ian Bushnell 26 September 2021 37
Construction site at Manuka

The Capitol Hotel and cinema complex construction site. Little room for a main entrance. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

As the first stage of the Liangis Group’s hotel and cinema development in Manuka rises to its full commanding height and people start to get an idea of how the former premium shopping and restaurant precinct could be reborn, the planning authority has thrown a spanner in the works.

It has approved the project’s bigger second stage but is demanding that it include a central entrance with a porte-cochère, a fancy name for a covered entry for vehicles, on the Manuka Circle/Canberra Avenue frontage that befits what the National Capital Authority calls a grand boulevarde.

The National Capital Design Review Panel also wants a pedestrian link or arcade through the centre of the development, connecting Franklin Street and Manuka Circle and on to Manuka Oval and Telopea Park.

Because the development is on one of Canberra’s major avenues, it comes under the watch of the National Capital Plan.


READ MORE: Manuka hotel project on the brink over Canberra Avenue entrance condition


The proponent has already had to change the design so it is less Parisian and more Federal Capital in look, but despite that, Stage 1’s elegant curves on the gateway corner of Franklin Street and Flinders Way and Manuka Circle is showing what is possible when developers look beyond the brutal geometry of modernism.

But family matriarch Sotiria Liangas is putting her foot down about the entrance condition despite the planning authority rejecting the proponent’s Reconsideration application.

There will “never” be a Canberra Avenue entrance, she declared.

The impasse is not good news for Manuka’s struggling businesses, which have already seen the precinct’s decline before the pandemic hit.

The redevelopment of the nearby former public housing sites and now the Capitol Theatre building pointed to a Manuka renaissance that has been eagerly awaited.

But the revitalisation that a five-star hotel, cinemas, shops and restaurants will bring is now at risk because the planners want to retrofit Canberra Avenue.

There are very good practical reasons why a Canberra Avenue entrance is not a good idea.

Not only would it be dangerously close to the road, but it would pose immense traffic management problems.

Artist's impression

An artist’s impression of the project. Images: Stewart Architecture.

There will be access from Canberra Avenue to underground parking, but the kind of grand entrance sought will introduce a major congestion point in an already busy area from the Captain Cook Crescent traffic lights that includes a service station, Flinders Way, Furneaux Street and the next set of lights near the cathedral for the pedestrian crossing to Manuka Oval.

Canberra Avenue is a busy four-lane arterial road that carries cars, trucks and buses. Who will want to sit in a cafe or bar and watch the traffic go by or the gridlock that would emerge?

Activating that frontage will be an impossible task when the life of Manuka will be in Franklin Street, away from the heavy traffic where the main entrance is planned.

There will also be entrances opposite the cathedral and on Flinders Way, close to the two public car parks.

As Mrs Liangis says, the entrances will be where the people are.

Another view

Another view of the project.

The notion of a pedestrian link is also misguided. Unless another crossing is envisaged, people walking to and from Manuka Oval can use the existing crossings and walk into and out of Manuka via Captain Cook Crescent, Flinders Way and Furneaux Streets.

A central arcade will not provide a shorter or more direct journey and in any case, would you want a well-sauced mob marching through the middle of your sparkling new building?

The Liangis Group is pouring millions into a landmark development to restore Manuka’s fortunes as a retail and entertainment precinct that will serve not only the inner south but the many Canberrans and interstate visitors who will visit.

A single tree that sprouted between buildings and fed on sewage delayed the project once. It does not need another potentially greater delay because of an outdated and impractical planning notion.


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37 Responses to Cut the planning shackles so Manuka hotel project isn’t delayed
Gary Ryan Gary Ryan 7:45 pm 29 Sep 21

They care so much about the site that they can't even be bothered to get rid of that graffiti that's appeared some time in the last year.

Rufus Peck Rufus Peck 9:03 am 29 Sep 21

No offence to Ian but I prefer to listen to the views of the National Capital Design Review Panel rather his or the developer. If the developer disagrees she can follow the established process and seek a review of the decision before the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT). Her choice. If not she is free to walk away. Call her bluff.

Alex SmilyLex Alex SmilyLex 1:30 am 29 Sep 21

Tell him to step over his ego and colme down to earth

rspg rspg 8:46 am 28 Sep 21

Bureaucracy at its worst with no concept of real world realities. When Manuka oval and st Christopher’s can’t be accessed from Canberra ave, why should a five star hotel? Stop being a handbrake and let’s get on with revitalising Manuka to it’s former bustling days. Franklin St has been languishing since the 90s

Alexander Campbell Alexander Campbell 10:36 pm 27 Sep 21

Another eyesore to be developed.why don't they turn the church into a another hotel eyesore

James-T-Kirk James-T-Kirk 7:40 pm 27 Sep 21

Nah… it’s Canberra Avenue.

It needs a grand covered entrance. A couple of traffic lights and some turning lanes.

Who cares if traffic is slowed by me wanting to visit the lobby to take a couple of photos… I say… go for it.

Don’t budge on little bit NCDC we want you back….

Oh.. while I have your attention I want to talk about those ugly TV dishes on everybody’s homes as well as those ugly antennas for TV. We should go back to the original plan.. if TV doesn’t work then those homes can simply do what we did in the old days…. make babies and play family bonding games like monopoly .

Beth Mansfield Beth Mansfield 7:28 pm 27 Sep 21

Let's rebuild the original capitol theatre and remember that redevelopers have no taste.

Vince Casalino Vince Casalino 7:27 pm 27 Sep 21

So sad to lose the theatre.

    Margie Dorman Margie Dorman 7:12 am 29 Sep 21

    Vince Casalino Not one person wanted that pulled down and still dont. Terrible what happened. Canberra’s biggest mistake.

Neil Marr Neil Marr 5:54 pm 27 Sep 21

Hasn't the developer been to Sydney???? Numerous buildings including 5 Star Hotels have Dual Entrances and Tunnels linking Opposite streets.

Dilkera Dilkera 5:36 pm 27 Sep 21

Absolutely ludicrous to have a grand drive in entrance on Canberra Avenue, which is long past being a grand avenue. It is a congested thoroughfare and it would be quite dangerous to have vehicles queuing to enter from this road. Opposite is the quite ugly external view of Manuka Oval. Similarly a passageway through a quality hotel is ridiculous. It is a small block and there should be no issue walking to the existing crossings, as people do now. The new hotel complex rising looks classically smart and should lift Manuka’s reputation as a run-down dated part of Canberra. All credit to Mrs Liangis for building a quality timeless construction of which the locals can be proud.

TimboinOz TimboinOz 2:56 pm 27 Sep 21

Let her do what she wants.

She’s a smart cookie.

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 4:05 pm 28 Sep 21

    She sold me a pair of shoes from her Fyshwick shoe store in 1983. I still wear them but I think she outlast me.

Pete Macca Pete Macca 11:42 am 27 Sep 21

Why don't we pull down the old Parliament House building, like they did to the Manuka Cinema , as a beautiful hotel could be built on that site.

Penelope Rose Penelope Rose 11:41 am 27 Sep 21

Nothing more I love while sitting at a cafe having my coffee than a main busy road of traffic with noisy trucks driving past.

David Fennessy David Fennessy 11:31 am 27 Sep 21

Canberra Ave is no 'Grand Boulevard'! Never was, Never will be - it's just a main road with no street frontage appeal. Let the developer get on with it!

    Doug Jackson Doug Jackson 7:46 pm 27 Sep 21

    David Fennessy he he... it's the main road to Qbn....

Elizabeth Ann Thurbon Elizabeth Ann Thurbon 10:40 am 27 Sep 21

Just keep an eye on the aesthetics. The previous development there was an eyesore. We don’t want another eyesore.

    Jp Romano Jp Romano 10:45 am 27 Sep 21

    Elizabeth Ann Thurbon mate you can see the aesthetics, it’s ⅓ built.

Jp Romano Jp Romano 10:08 am 27 Sep 21

Let’s come on this is hurting local business. The government needs to pull their finger out. The planners probably haven’t been to Manuka in 15 years.

Philip Coggan Philip Coggan 10:08 am 27 Sep 21

A bit off the topic of the entrance site, but I wonder if a cinema complex is sensible at a time when streaming to the home is becoming the norm.

    Ian Don Ian Don 10:11 am 27 Sep 21

    Philip Coggan it will no doubt be smaller but cinemas will still have a place. Not everyone has big screen and spring sounds set ups at home.

    Philip Coggan Philip Coggan 10:17 am 27 Sep 21

    Ian Don Hi Don. I'm not making a prediction, just wondering out loud. I believe the cinema was more or less forced on the Liangis group.

    Margaret Freemantle Margaret Freemantle 3:06 pm 27 Sep 21

    Ian Don Cinema will always have a place. There is no comparison to home streaming - cinematic experience is highly desirable

    Ian Don Ian Don 3:06 pm 27 Sep 21

    Margaret Freemantle totally agree

Nick Samios Nick Samios 9:40 am 27 Sep 21

Allow Mrs L to have the entrance on Franklin St to create a Grand Entrance Piazza to complement other Establishments and the street strip.

Enough is Enough from the Government Planning Body !

    Alexander Anlezark Alexander Anlezark 11:07 am 27 Sep 21

    you tell em Nick Samios

    Margaret Freemantle Margaret Freemantle 3:03 pm 27 Sep 21

    Nick Samios so developers should have the say over a planning body?? I don’t think so!

    Frank Koch Frank Koch 6:46 pm 27 Sep 21

    Margaret Freemantle I bet you if you had millions of dollars 💵 riding on delays costing you lots I bet you would be Whingeing. Please till then if you like put your money where your mouth is. It’s going to be a great development and create many jobs. Great for Manuka. Go Mrs L !

    Margaret Freemantle Margaret Freemantle 11:01 pm 27 Sep 21

    Frank Koch you work for her??

    Frank Koch Frank Koch 2:22 pm 28 Sep 21

    Margaret Freemantle no I don’t but I know of her and she has done well so we shouldn’t begrudge her in any way. Most people get jealous of people like her.

Danny Corvini Danny Corvini 9:25 am 27 Sep 21

Let the developer decide where they want their entrance. Guests would surely prefer to walk out onto a cafe street than a busy road with no shops

Ian Don Ian Don 8:30 am 27 Sep 21

It would have cost her millions to let that block fall into disrepair over the tree, so no doubt she will dig in even deeper for this. It makes sense to have the entrance facing Manuka though.

    Marc Edwards Marc Edwards 8:39 am 27 Sep 21

    Ian Don should be dual sided. One entry facing Canberra Ave and the other facing Manuka, as Canberra Ave as a major road should have a presence and not just be used as a service yard.

    Ian Don Ian Don 8:42 am 27 Sep 21

    Marc Edwards maybe, I can see it causing congestion issues at times in that side. And her point about cafes facing in to Manuka rather than towards Canberra ave are valid.

    Her comments about drunk people walking through are nonsense though.

    David Newman David Newman 9:13 am 27 Sep 21

    Marc Edwards, I agree. Franklin St doesn’t have enough parking for taxis arriving at the hotel so it’s logical for the hotel to have a main entrance facing the loop off Canberra Ave and a pedestrian entrance onto Kennedy St

    Kevin Gill Kevin Gill 1:00 pm 27 Sep 21

    Ian Don “She” did not write the article ... author is shown at beginning of article. I largely agree with writer as the stretch of the road between the two church buildings is already a problem.

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