3 June 2020

Geocon's eight-storey proposal for Kingston disappointing, says residents group

| Ian Bushnell
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Giles Street in Kingston

An illustration of the proposed complex on Giles Street in Kingston. Images: Purdon Planning.

A Geocon proposal for an eight-storey mixed-use development in Kingston is out of step with the character of the area and raises serious traffic and parking concerns, according to the local residents group.

The development giant wants to build the complex at 84-86 Giles Street on Blocks 13 and 22 Section 22, next to the old post office, totalling about 2000 square metres.

It has engaged Turco & Associates, DSB Landscape Architects and Purdon Planning as the consultants for the redevelopment and to conduct pre-DA consultation.

Geocon plans 106 residential units and four ground-floor non-retail commercial units, with basement parking and rooftop gardens and amenities.

It is also seeking to activate the rear car park and laneway on Block 33 Section 22 by creating a pedestrian connection through the site, from Giles Street to Eyre Street.

”The design seeks to contribute positively to the Kingston Group Centre through high-quality design and activated ground floor with complementary materials and articulation moving up the building,” according to the project plans on the Purdon website.

“A select choice in building materials will help to emulate the surrounding suburban character. Façade materials include brick, glass and concrete.”

Purdon says the proposal has twice been presented to the National Capital Design Review Panel (NCDRP) and the façade materials and built form have been developed and guided by the NCDRP’s feedback.

The Kingston and Barton Residents Association says Geocon originally proposed a hotel for the site and was expected to present its plans at a public community meeting but withdrew.

Site map

A site map showing the project’s location in Kingston.

KBRA spokesperson Rebecca Scouller said the apartment plans were not surprising but the group was disappointed, noting the Kingston Master Plan identifies building heights for this site as being no more than four storeys.

”It is starting to look like a developer strategy to make ambit claims, then appear to ‘listen to the community’ and compromise’ but still build above the heights identified in Master Plans and other planning documents,” she said.

But Purdon says the proposal is within Territory Plan rules, and while not aligning completely with the Master Plan, is consistent with the Kingston Precinct Code and the 2011 master plan objectives.

Ms Scouller said an eight-storey building was not in character with the Kingston Group Centre and may also have impacts on the amenity of existing apartments and businesses, including overshadowing and loss of sunshine.

Purdon says shadows will mainly be cast over the rear car park and laneway and across Jardine Street and commercial buildings, and no residential dwellings will be adversely impacted.

A change to the Precinct Code states that ”the four-storey building envelope over blocks 13 and 22 section 22 has been removed in response to concerns raised by adjoining neighbours, and due to identified likely impacts from substantial overshadowing onto the amenity of adjoining dwellings. The blocks will be subject to the existing requirements of the Commercial Zones Development Code, which permits two-storey development with criteria for considering higher development provided there are no significant impacts on neighbouring dwellings.”

It appears Geocon is now using a measure designed to prevent higher buildings and overshadowing to justify the proposal’s height.

Ms Scouller said parking and traffic flow would be problematic.

”One can only assume the proposed entrance will be the lane-way behind the Jardine Street shops,” she said.

”It is hard to understand how this lane-way can accommodate an entryway for over 150 residential and commercial car parks plus traffic movements and deliveries/waste management while also supporting existing businesses.”

A traffic report will be available when the DA is lodged in July but Purdon says the proposal seeks to promote active travel modes and reduce car use by residents.

Ms Scouller said Geocon had form when it came to these sorts of issues, particularly when it developed the Abode Hotel on Kennedy Street in 2018 and negotiated approval to provide 23 fewer car parks than legally required, pushing vehicles on to streets and impacting local businesses.

”If this were to happen a second time then this would significantly impact the Kingston Group Centre,” she said.

Purdon says a letterbox drop to nearby residents and businesses will take place today (2 June).

The project team will also be speaking with community councils and peak bodies over the coming weeks and plans to present the development via video conference through a live session.

Purdon Planning will host a live consultation session with the project team on 11 June at 6:00 pm. A link and instructions for the session will be posted on its website by 9 June.

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I would be concerned if I lived in the apartments next door as the plans for the new apartments show two levels of basement car park. Hopefully there won’t be any movement or structural damage when they start excavating.

Are the people complaining about high rise buildings the same people that complain about loss of green spaces? I see a few names in the comments that certainly are.

Pick one. Canberra is small. You want things like trams but not the high density population that go with it. You want green spaces but not the high rise, high density accommodation that saves on the footprint required to accommodate the population needed to sustain all these other things you want. Seriously, these people need to pick a position.

Or do they just like to whine?

Bit of all the above I reckon. And of all places to complain about a new apartment building is Kingston. That (and town centres) are the very places where high density housing should be, and in this case it isn’t that high, there are others around just as high, it’s not totally ugly, that of course is subjective, but oh it is Gecon, so must be some sort of kickback to Andrew Barr or someone else. Never mind Geocon like anyone else, including individuals like us have every right to buy land or a building if it is for sale. And then we have every right to either propose a building that meets the zoning, or make a planning application to change that zoning.

It is clear that good planning needs vigilance and enforcement on top of having good master plans and precinct codes. Master Plans are made to give some coherence to an area. The plan sets a limit of four storeys, and there are shadow controls in the precinct code. These codes are to set limits – they are controls, not licences – and if there are two height limits covering some area, then it’s the lower that must be enforced, in all logic.

“A select choice in building materials will help to emulate the surrounding suburban character. Façade materials include brick, glass and concrete.”
What a ridiculous statement. It should be:
“We want to put up a building. Façade materials include brick, glass and concrete, just like every building we have ever put up.”

Not on my watch. Those apartments/townhouses just behind will get so dark and cold in the afternoon. Plus like everyone else has said, there’s nothing else remotely close to that height in the area. Even the apartments on the Foreshore at at most six storeys.

The Carrington and Kingston towers on Jardine Street (100 meters away) are both 15 stories.

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