17 July 2017

Density and infill: Goulburn we need to talk

| John Thistleton
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Auburn Street

A prime residential site in Auburn Street with superb views of Belmore Park. Photo: John Thistleton.

Say goodbye to big empty backyards in the middle of Goulburn. They are filling up with residential accommodation, and if it continues we can say goodbye to empty shops in Auburn Street. People are returning to the central areas. Fewer shop vacancies are noticeable, even in the middle of winter.

Trees are returning to Auburn Street and trucks are being discouraged. Best of all, in September Goulburn Mulwaree Council will present a discussion paper on density and infill within the central business district for community consultation.

Soon empty shop tops behind ornate facades will be prime residential targets, a happy state of affairs that developers are aware of, but others may not be due to the creeping rise of land values, coupled with infrastructure costs.

Council’s director of growth, strategy and culture Louise Wakefield says it is exciting and important to challenge the community and councillors to think differently about density and design.

I believe Goulburn’s central business district and the wider commercial and mixed use zone, bounded by Citizen, Cowper, Clinton Streets and Blackshaw Road are loaded with opportunities for residential living.

A surveyor says if you look within a one kilometre radius of the Goulburn Post Office from the air you will see the amount of wasted space, and homes with long, empty backyards. Lots of businesses and service providers have left too.

All the empty space can be redeveloped without ratepayers forking out for costly new infrastructure, as they have done in the past for subdivisions on Goulburn’s fringes. Sewerage, stormwater, footpaths, curbing and guttering and wide roads are in place, a major advantage given the rising costs of developing. Infill housing promotes creativity as developers and architects work with the constraints of space, existing development and heritage to come up with innovative solutions.

Central Goulburn’s long residential blocks are a hangover of the chain measure days of planning. Big, long blocks divided by lanes for the garbage and night soil carts, and homes at the front. Empty buildings above Auburn Street shops are another wasted space.

Goulburn architect Tim Lee says it makes far more sense to have a live and vital core in the middle of town. He says the key is 24-hour occupation, which leads to passive surveillance, because you have people looking after their own backyard and no sense of the CBD closing down when people leave their work.

Market Street

Footpath coffee outlet in Market Street. Photo: John Thistleton.

Central Goulburn

New housing without the need for new infrastructure in central Goulburn. Photo: John Thistleton.

Redeveloping the Tatts and Astor hotels is helping bring Auburn Street alive. As well, the new Harvest coffee shop near Belmore Park has put a window onto Market Street footpath to bring another level of interaction into the CBD.

Mr Lee (and many others!) would like to see more residential accommodation above the Auburn Street shops, and gives the prime example of above Deja Vu Hair and Beauty, Park Cafe and Morton Bros. Imagine the sunlit views over Belmore Park and Court House for people living there?

“If you could have those places activated as apartments, that would be just astounding I think. It would be absolutely brilliant,’’ says Tim. “It is an urban model well tried and tested throughout Europe. In any of the smaller towns in Europe you have shop top housing and connection with the street, which I think is vital.’’

Tim says five years ago the proposed Marian College redevelopment, and the seven villas being built in Cartwright Place would have been unthinkable. Yet for older and younger people close proximity of the main street, shopping, train station, hospital and Victoria Park is highly valuable. You don’t need a car.

Tim, an architect who has been practising in Goulburn for 20 years, says Wagga Wagga has parallel parking and has widened the curbs, created incredible spaces with vibrant cafes, lots of planting, so you can stroll five abreast down the main street and still have space for other people to walk around you.

“We can do the same in Goulburn by providing appropriate parking off the main street and realise you have to walk 100 metres every now and then,” he says.

“For years now everyone has been saying, Oh Goulburn is on the cusp of going gangbusters. Well it would be great to actually see that happen.”

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