Former CSIRO Forestry site master plan includes 300 apartments, hotel and aged care facility

Ian Bushnell 1 June 2021 16
Forestry Place proposal

A view of the Forestry Place proposal from the oval which is not part of the development site. Image: Kann Finch.

The owner of the heritage-listed former CSIRO School of Forestry site in Yarralumla has applied to the National Capital Authority to amend the National Capital Plan as it seeks to redevelop the site into a mixed-use residential precinct that includes an aged care facility and boutique hotel.

The draft master plan for the 11 hectare site, devised after community consultation last year, proposes buildings up to five storeys, up to 300 apartments, and commercial re-use of the heritage buildings such as Forestry House as an 80-room hotel, uses which are not currently allowed under the NCP.

The proponent has also referred the proposal to the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

Now known as Forestry Place, the 11 hectare site was sold to Gunyar Pty Ltd in 2002 with a 20-year lease allowing CSIRO to retain control of the property until 2022.

Gunyar represents the Shepherd Foundation, a registered charity that helps children with hearing loss that has a presence in Canberra.

It has partnered with Sydney developer Oakstand to develop the site and provide an income to the organisation.

Buildings of between two to five storeys are proposed with the tallest below the treeline, including 250 to 300 oversized apartments with large courtyards or generous balconies and a 130-bed aged care independent living complex.

The former CSIRO School of Forestry site in Yarralumla

The former CSIRO School of Forestry site in Yarralumla. Photo: File.

Most of the apartments will be two to three bedrooms pitched at owner occupiers, with ageing-in-place options through assisted seniors living and aged care accommodation.

The proponent says any development will be of a scale that follows the existing building footprints, limits the building heights to within the tree canopy, uses the site topography to limit impact on view corridors and retains 60 per cent open space as well as including a plan to maintain and renew the heritage buildings and significant treescape into the future.

It says it has has mitigation strategies to compensate for any heritage impacts

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The consultation found that the impact of population increases from the combined Forestry Place and Brickworks developments on traffic congestion, parking at the Yarralumla shops and the quality of life for existing residents were the main concerns.

The Yarralumla Residents Association, which is conducting a survey of residents on the proposal, says the scale of the project and the impact on the site’s heritage values are also major concerns.

President Mike Lewis says that together with the development of the Old Brickworks site, Yarralumla’s population is estimated to increase from the current 3000 to 5000, or 70 per cent, and vehicle numbers by 54 per cent.

It is estimated that the proposed CSIRO site development alone will generate an additional 2000 traffic movements per day, the association says.

The proponent says that a traffic review found that any increase can be absorbed by the road network, taking into account the proposed new traffic lights at the intersection of Adelaide Avenue and Novar and Kent Streets, and the Dudley Street upgrade.

Forestry Place proposal site map

The Forestry Place proposal site map. Image: Kann Finch.

But Mr Lewis says it is hard to see how this can be so when the traffic from the site will have to flow through already taxed Yarralumla streets.

Mr Lewis said the cumulative effects of the proposal will have a significant impact on the site’s heritage values and the nature of the suburb.

“It’s one those situations where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts,” he said.

“If you put in 300 dwellings, plus an 80-bed hotel, plus a 130-bed aged care centre it’s really going to destroy the whole of the precinct in terms of its heritage values.”

The EPBC referral argues that a full assessment is not required and just needs the Environment Minister Sussan Ley to sign off on it, but the Association will be submitting that a full assessment is needed.

Mr Lewis said CSIRO had also applied under the EPBC process to start demolishing minor buildings, as well as the greenhouses, in July.

He said the greenhouses were important elements of the scientific heritage of the site.

Mr Lewis said the Association was keeping an open mind about the proposal and the residents survey would inform its final position.

The NCA is yet to consider the application to change the NCP. It will conduct further community consultation once it does so.

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16 Responses to Former CSIRO Forestry site master plan includes 300 apartments, hotel and aged care facility
Acton Acton 8:01 am 07 Jun 21

Heritage areas like this belong to all of us. It is part of the beauty that makes up Canberra, in whatever area it is located. What gives anyone the right to destroy our common heritage areas, to eliminate cherished green spaces, by appropriating and destroying these places for profit and apartments? Bit by bit these places are being consumed by rapacious developers, aided by a complicit government and a complacent population. You betray our children by consenting to this.

    taniaparkes taniaparkes 4:34 pm 07 Jun 21

    The revenue stream from the Forestry place proposal will go to the Shepherd Foundation (a charity providing hearing services) and to protect and maintain the heritage buildings and significant treescape into the future. The site will remain accessible to the public. Please view the draft master plan on the website for accurate information.

Nathan Leonard Nathan Leonard 6:27 am 07 Jun 21

More apartments? Seriously. How many can Canberra sustain? No opposition to development but on a site like this perhaps something a bit more low density and sympathetic to its environment.

David Jenkins David Jenkins 12:00 pm 06 Jun 21

With bonus features of a traffic nightmare and no parking at the shops 🤷‍♂️. Beautiful one day...

Trish Casey Trish Casey 9:55 am 06 Jun 21


The park area is a great family area

    Tania Parkes Tania Parkes 4:35 pm 07 Jun 21

    Forestry Oval is not part of the site, and 60% of the site will remain open space.

Ol L Ol L 10:08 am 05 Jun 21

Wow, imagine living in old yarralumla and enduring this

Felicity Hourigan Felicity Hourigan 6:47 pm 03 Jun 21

Deborah Hourigan my first building working for CSIRO.

    Felicity Hourigan Felicity Hourigan 6:50 pm 03 Jun 21

    Troy McPherson LOL, I use the term loosely..... most of what I do is just frowned upon not dismissible 😏

Troy McPherson Troy McPherson 6:42 pm 03 Jun 21

Felicity Hourigan, Andrew Martin Ronayne Brett McDonald, The old stomping ground is gonna change…

    Andrew Martin Ronayne Andrew Martin Ronayne 9:30 pm 03 Jun 21

    Troy McPherson I miss working for CSIRO and specifically that location.

Jane Raleigh Jane Raleigh 6:03 pm 03 Jun 21

Very disappointing.

jessie jessie 4:22 pm 03 Jun 21

Reduce the population impact by a third and I might support the development.

Simon Dw Disndat Simon Dw Disndat 12:48 pm 03 Jun 21

Thats a lot of building in that spot, will make Banks St a nightmare + add that to brickworks. Usually never agree with any Inner south council but seems they have a case here

Rob Calvert Rob Calvert 12:00 pm 03 Jun 21

Another case of Canberra NIMBYism, Canberra needs urban redevelopment and renewal. The population density is incredibly low. The CSIRO buildings should be preserved and would form a beautiful basis for a delightful enclave.

    Catherine Foley Catherine Foley 6:55 pm 05 Jun 21

    this is a broader issue than just Yarralumla residents. Over 10 k Canberra locals visit the area a day in summer, going to Weston Park for BBQs and recreation, the Yarralumla nursery, local shops, foreshore and dog park. The size and density of these future developments will have significant impact on the local roads and safety of foot traffic. The solution is not more traffic lights on already congested roads as suggested by the developer. Just ask people coming from Weston and Denman Prospect areas heading into town. What will another 2000 cars per day entering these already choked arteries do for the daily commute?

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