As builders beavered away on McDonald’s and KFC restaurants at a building site adjacent to the road into Jerrabomberra, those involved with the area’s newest precinct came together to unveil a bold vision almost 20 years in the making.
The building site, on the left of Tompsitt Drive, will house the fast-food restaurant chains as well as an Aldi supermarket, a medical centre and gym that are set to open before Christmas. These buildings are the first stage of the Poplars precinct, a 210-hectare site that will eventually have 30 buildings on both sides of Tompsitt Drive.
Flanked by Jerrabomberra Hill, master of ceremonies Tim Shaw spruiks to stakeholders and media that the area’s latest major development will provide the perfect location for defence, space and tech companies with a first-class retail and services precinct.
“But wait, there’s more,” Shaw announces, while officially unveiling the Poplars Innovation Precinct last Friday (29 November).
As a steady flow of planes begin their descent to Canberra Airport overhead, Poplars development manager David Maxwell said the McDonalds and KFC restaurants will be open and serving before Christmas.
“With the first retail stage of Poplars already underway, this exciting new development will foster industry connection with the national capital, offering the latest facilities in an attractive and rapidly growing regional centre,” Mr Maxwell said.
The Poplars precinct will also include the region’s first STEM-based high school, an Innovation Hub and create a Grassland Reserve to preserve the unique local environment.
“The region already has a highly skilled workforce and a growing reputation as a magnet for innovation and world-leading communications and defence companies,” Mr Maxwell said.
Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council (QPRC) mayor Tim Overall has a photo of a lone tree on Jerrabomberra Hill that takes pride of place in his office. He said the long-awaiting precinct will allow the future Jerrabomberra High School to build the region’s next generation of leaders.
“The bold vision being brought to life by the Poplars development is part of the great growth story of the Queanbeyan area, providing much-needed retail and employment land as a springboard for continued expansion,” Mr Overall said.
“The south Jerrabomberra area will see some significant progress over the coming years, including the establishment of the proposed South Tralee residential area and planning for the development of a regional sports precinct, educational facility and an innovation hub.”
Poplars’ 10-hectare retail and services precinct will showcase innovative design concepts in a marketplace setting which Mr Maxwell said will complement and enhance the surrounding environment.
“The precinct will be a fun destination for people to meet, shop, eat and unwind with local and national brands servicing the business park and the surrounding area,” he said.
The adjacent grassland reserve comprises more than 100 hectares that will be protected under a biodiversity stewardship agreement with the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage. Poplars will work with the Wadiyali Restoration Trust to ensure that these important ecological areas are conserved and linked with other areas in the region.
Canberra Jerrabomberra Resident’s Association president Margot Sachse said the development marks a long-standing vision to connect the area with its surrounds.
“We’re really pleased to see this milestone happen today,” Ms Sachse said.
“The education precinct, in particular, is something that has been very high on our priorities for many years. We’ve made hundreds of submissions and representations to various levels of government in support of this development.”
Ms Sachse said a major part of the development is the proposed Jerrambomberra High School, which will be built near the existing primary school.
“Our local member, John Barilaro, has made a commitment to construct the high school during his term in government, so we are really looking forward to that, as the whole community has been battling away for a high school.”
Ms Sachse said this means children in the area will be able to transition from the primary school to high school without travelling to Queanbeyan as the ACT Government has restricted Jerrabomberra students from going to high schools over the border.
“There were a lot of legislative and political changes that have happened in the process,” Ms Sachse said. “There have been a lot of challenges, but in the end, the outcome was what is exactly what everybody involved had envisioned some 20 years ago.
“This precinct is a really critical piece of infrastructure in that the students here can see where their high schooling future lies, and with the innovation hub, where their future jobs will be.”