16 September 2020

Geocon denies Kingston proposal over the top but holds back DA for more consultation

| Ian Bushnell
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Geocon's Kingston proposal

An artist’s impression of the Kingston proposal. Image: Purdon Planning.

Geocon has defended its eight-storey apartment proposal in old Kingston but is continuing to talk with the community rather than push ahead with a development application.

Geocon managing director Nick Georgalis said he did not believe the proposal was over the top, but he added that the lack of population density was hurting local businesses, particularly in the group centre.

”Kingston is suffering,” Mr Georgalis said.

“If you look at Kingston shops there are a lot of shut buildings; at the Foreshore, a lot of shut doors.”

Mr Georgalis said the proposal for 106 apartments and four ground-floor commercial tenancies on the nearly 2000 square metre site next to the old post office was, in fact, quite sensitive to what the community wants there.

”It’s one of the last blocks in old Kingston, there aren’t many other options left there,” he said.

Some residents believe the proposal is too big and too high and will destroy the village feel of Kingston, but some businesses in the shops would welcome more potential customers.

The proposal even prompted chief minister and local member Andrew Barr to intervene, saying the planned development was not the right fit for Kingston.

But Geocon argues the proposal’s size is within the context of Kingston, pointing to other multi-storey developments such as nearby Atria, and the older Kingston Tower and The Carrington.

It says the proposal is within the planning rules, which allow buildings taller than the two-storey limit ”if compatible with the desired character, appropriate to the sale and function of the use, and minimise detrimental impacts, including overshadowing and excessive scale”.

Mr Georgalis said Kingston was already there when it came to building heights, and there was huge demand for property in the inner south suburb.

”People don’t like height but they forget that height is an ancient idea of wayfinding, that an obelisk in the street had to be higher to identify where the city centre or town centre was,” he said.

”What you see now when you drive around Canberra is that you can identify the town centre or city centre. You can’t say it’s a modern thing, it’s always been considered in planning.”

Mr Georgalis took aim at those fundamentally opposed to new development, suggesting that they are trying to keep out people who want to live where they do.

”A lot of community groups don’t involve people who aspire to live in particular areas,” he said.

”A person who already lives in an area has already got that luxury, already has that in their life, so they may not really understand why the greater community aspires to live there.”

He would like to see those aspirational people more involved in community groups.

Nonetheless, he said Geocon would take more time to consult with the community and work closely with the planning authority.

”We aren’t submitting a DA in the next month. We are going back and talking more and understanding more,” he said.

Besides the size of the proposal, opponents have expressed concerns around traffic and parking issues.

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This proposed apartment is built right to the edge of the block and is not set back at all. It is not difficult to find a place to rent or buy in Kingston. This apartment is too high for this area. Concerns around traffic are justified.

Mr Georgalis might like to check the extent to which the high rents being sought by some landlords in Kingston are keeping their shops vacant. Recent hail damage has also been a factor. It’s not all about population density. The soon to open supermarket and residential units opposite Green Square will be a good test to show how much difference the extra population makes. It might just make businesses on Giles Street and Kennedy Street more peripheral to the Green Square focus.

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