30 April 2018

Geocon proposes 16-storey, five-star hotel for Garema Place

| Ian Bushnell
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The proposed hotel building as viewed from Garema Place looking north towards the site. Source: Architectural plans by Fender Katsalidis Architecture.

Canberra developer Geocon is proposing to build a 16-storey, five-star, 233-room hotel and mixed use development that will front Garema Place and Bunda Street in Civic.

Geocon, which owns and operates the Abode Group of hotels, bought the Garema Centre building at 70 Bunda Street last September for $13.35 million.

The development application, which also seeks to vary the Crown lease to permit the hotel and change pavement requirements, says the $46,446,964 project will also include a wellness centre (gym/pool), an internal courtyard, bar and bistro, café, hotel buffet restaurant, signature restaurant, hotel club lounge and hotel outdoor bar, and roof terrace pool.

Designed by Fender Katsalidis Architecture with landscape architecture design by Oculus, the building will also include internal green spaces, a mezzanine floor, two basement levels, and other commercial tenancies.

The site, on Block 5 Section 47 in the city, fronts Bunda Street on the north and Garema Place on the south and is occupied by a two-storey building with a basement level, with the ground floor consisting primarily of food and drink premises and a variety of commercial and retail premises on the first floor. The basement is vacant. The building will need to be demolished.

The application, prepared by Knight Frank Town Planning, says the proposed building includes a podium and tower that have been ”skilfully designed to respond to the site, surrounding buildings, dual site frontages and Canberra’s city centre”.

“It will significantly improve the built form presentation and quality of the locality and Canberra’s city centre,” it says.

The proposed hotel building as viewed from Bunda Street looking south-west towards the site.

The application says the proposed building will reinforce the existing curve of Bunda Street with the highly activated ground floor frontage consisting of transparent glazing to the hotel lobby and associated areas.

On Garema Place, the ground floor and mezzanine will align with the existing building frontages on Blocks 1 and 3, and incorporate active frontages to the proposed bistro/bar, internal corridor and café.

Level 1 of the building will extend to the title boundary to Garema Place over the existing pedestrian easement, providing weather protection for pedestrians.

The application says the tower will commence at level 2 and extends to level 14 and the roof top plant, with a triangular design and ‘sleek’ appearance to minimise its visual scale and presence when viewed from various parts of Garema Place.

A solar analysis from Fender Katsalidis Architects indicates that Garema Place will remain substantially sunlit between the hours of 12 (noon) and 2 pm on the winter solstice (21 June), with the vast majority of shadows from the proposed building cast over the roofs of the buildings already located, as well as service lanes and vehicular traffic roadways.

The site, marked in red.

A key design element is the building’s landscaped core, with voids to the ground, mezzanine and level 1 above providing space for the planting of large trees and shrubs.

The level 2 landscaped terrace is described as an urban oasis that will include trees, shrubs and ground covers to provide a lush outdoor garden setting complemented by the swimming pool.

The traffic and parking impact assessment prepared by AECOM says a total of 21 car parking spaces are proposed on basement level 2 with access provided from the Bunda Street via a single vehicular cross over.

The Garema Centre site at 70 Bunda Street. Photo: Colliers International.

The basement will be serviced by a single car lift with capacity to move one vehicle at a time.

“The car lift is a practical solution given the limitations of the site and dense urban context,” it says.

The assessment says that 21 car spaces is considered appropriate, given the site’s location in the heart of the CBD and the availability of public car parking spaces nearby.

It says the surrounding existing road network is adequate to accommodate the traffic generated by the proposed development.

The proposal will also need approval from the National Capital Authority as the site and Territory land nearby is subject to special requirements under the National Capital Plan (NCP).

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Surely the number of carparks is a commercial decision of the business. If they think that 21 is enough and they prove to be wrong it is their money they will be loosing as customers will stay elsewhere.

I’ve stayed at hotels in Sydney and Melbourne CBD’s that don’t have carparks and have survived the ordeal. And in both cases I have travelled with and without cars. In Sydney just recently I stayed at Vibe on Bathurst street and Melbourne the Mercure just off Collins Street.

Now if we were talking about a residential apartment building then I would share the ‘rage’.

Yes, I agree and there’s a massive public carpark directly across the road from this new hotel.

I’d also be almost certain that the hotel will do a deal with the Canberra Centre carpark operators to offer cheaper parking rates for their guests.

Ghettosmurf8712:18 pm 03 May 18

Finally someone looking at the parking sensibly! If people travelling to Canberra desperately need their car, they’ll opt to stay elsewhere. I’m sure this won’t be the difference between no one staying there and it being full. Usually that’s dependent on the quality and service provided by the hotel at an appropriate price point.

As for staff parking, there are a myriad of businesses in the city that don’t offer designated parking to their staff. This is no different.

I agree that 21 car parks seems ridiculous.

It may not be as bad as it seems, as the hotel may provide valet parking where they park your car off site in a public carpark (such as the nearby Canberra Centre). That presumably could be done for around the cost people are already paying for valet parking at hotels in Canberra.

However, this of course then means that up to 200+ public carparks would become unavailable for other users, leading to increased parking pressure in Civic which is not nice.

I agree, the hotel should have more parking, or as you say, use a valet parking service, although if I were a guest, I would hope the car went into a caged area for security. However, as for the locals wanting parking, I don’t understand why so many think they need to drive to Civic. Catch the bus. I do.

Only TWO hours sunshine. That is ridiculous!

That’s not what the article says.

It says that Garema place will still have substantial sunlit areas during 12-2pm on the winter solstice which is the lowest the sun gets in the sky every year, hence greatest degree of southerly shading from buildings like this.

If the building is 50 odd metres high, it will be shading 80 odd metres south at this time, which is the worst it will be each year.

It’s clear that there will be significant shading, particularly during this early winter period, but it’s not saying that there will only be 2 hours of sunshine in the square.

It was understood that meant the winter solstice. Two hours is still inadequate. Although that needs to be taken into account with what sun falls in Garema Place during the shortest day now, to get a better idea of how this new building will effect this. I am by the way in favour of something like this, as it can only help improve the local area and hopefully take some of the shopping away from the black hole which is the mall.

I still don’t think you’re getting what I’m saying.

The article is not saying that the square will only get two hours sunshine, just that during those two hours, there will still be significant areas of the square that get sunshine.

There are currently areas of the square that get zero sunshine and some that get lots. This building will obviously make shading worse, particularly in winter.

Whether that’s a big issue or not depends on how you judge the value of adequate sunlight in the square.

Capital Retro5:11 pm 01 May 18

No one from Canberra will ever stay there as the parking is too limited. Damn, I’ve always wanted to try out a 5 star hotel in the city I live in.

The unsolicited “master plan” for Garema Place included in that development application is a real eye-opener: https://i.imgur.com/WQfwylBh.jpg

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