If you were in the vicinity of the Canberra and Region Visitors Centre on Northbourne Avenue yesterday morning, you could’ve stepped into its carpark and watch part of the demolition of the first of the controversially doomed Dickson Flats.
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr was on site as the demolition got underway shortly before 8am, answering questions about the pace of development on the site.
“Sometimes it takes a Chief Minister to push a little bit harder, in order to get a little bit more done, more quickly in this city, and I’m prepared to do that, particularly in relation to this corridor,” he said.
“People have been crying out for change for nearly as long as I’ve lived in this city, and now it’s time.”
Mr Barr said he the site would become “a high quality mixed use development” that would be predominantly residential.
“It will be a key point in the redevelopment of Dickson,” he added.
The Chief Minister said the Northbourne Avenue redevelopment process would see the Government continue “the largest renewal of our public housing stock in the ACT’s history”.
“We will replace every public housing dwelling ‘roof for roof’, providing accommodation that is appropriate to the needs of contemporary public housing tenants, many of whom are among the most vulnerable in our community,” he said.
Owen Flats, on the western side of Northbourne Avenue, were also now vacant and a tender for their demolition would soon be issued. It was anticipated that these buildings would be coming down by the end of the year.
Mr Barr said the sale of the public housing stock was part of the Commonwealth’s Asset Recycling Initiative and the ACT would receive a 15 per cent bonus on the sale of these properties. The total proceeds would be directly invested in cutting congestion and creating jobs through the light rail project.
National Trust spokesman Eric Martin told ABC radio yesterday that the heritage values of the buildings had not been fully identified and considered and that the Government had not followed due process in its dealings on the matter.
In November, planning Minister Mick Gentleman used his call-in powers to approve the demolitions and rule out appeals against the move.
What do you think, are the towers an eyesore or an important part of our heritage that we will regret losing with hindsight?
This story was first published on Tuesday, February 25 but updated, including time references, on Wednesday, February 26.