1 May 2023

Former Canberra Times site undergoes Wilson Storage makeover

| Ian Bushnell
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An artist’s impression of the proposed Wilson Storage development on the former Canberra Times site in Fyshwick. Images: BB Architects.

The prime corner site formerly occupied by The Canberra Times newspaper in Fyshwick will be redeveloped into a self-storage facility with more than 1000 units.

Wilson Storage has lodged a development application (DA) for the site on the corner of Newcastle and Pirie streets, with artist’s impressions showing the familiar Canberra Times masthead replaced by the storage company’s badging.

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The Canberra Times moved its printing press to Fyshwick in 1964. Its editorial and advertising teams joined the printers in new purpose-built facilities in 1987. It decommissioned the press in 2020, printing the newspaper in Sydney. Staff moved from Fyshwick to the Canberra CBD in 2021.

The $15 million Wilson Storage project will retain some of the existing buildings on the 20,505 square metre site, particularly the main building where journalists, compositors, administration and sales staff worked.

This two-storey building will maintain the prominent corner frontage and street presence. It will be refurbished to include self-storage units, offices and staff amenities.

The redevelopment will deliver about 1095 self-storage units, refurbished existing buildings, demolition of others, a new driveway, substation and associated on-site and offsite works.

The four-storey former press hall will be joined by a new four-storey building. Both will house self-storage units.

The remaining self-storage units will be housed in five new single-storey buildings.

Overall, the new facility will offer more than 12,000sqm of floor space and a total net lettable area of 8522sqm.

Storage customers’ vehicles will access the facility via a new seven-metre wide driveway with security gate from Pirie Street, while visitors will use the existing driveway for reception.

Image of buildings on street front

The self-storage facility will deliver more than 1000 units. Images: BB Architects.

Despite 243 parking spaces being required for a self-storage facility of this size, only nine are proposed – five for visitors near the main entrance and reception area and four near the security gate.

The DA’s Traffic Report states the statutory requirement significantly overestimates the parking demand for such a development.

It suggests customers for the multi-storey units can park within marked parking bays or loading areas, while those accessing units in the single-level buildings can park within the aisles.

Visiting customers rarely block access to other storage units because the number at a site at any one time is low, the report states.

It states the development’s impact on traffic on surrounding roads will actually be less than that of the newspaper’s operations.

The proposal calls for the removal of a number of trees, four of which are regulated.

The DA states these regulated trees severely constrain redevelopment of the site by restricting access and vehicle movements, and need to be removed to allow a functional building design.

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“There are no realistic alternatives to enable their retention,” the DA states.

A previous development application for the partial demolition of existing structures to create setbacks to the new proposed lots, removal of the underground tanks and a Crown lease variation to add additional uses and subdivide the block in two was lodged in February.

Comment on the DA is open until 9 May.

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