30 July 2020

Government rules out 16-storey Woden CIT but site questions remain

| Ian Bushnell
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Woden CIT render

A render shows the Woden CIT integrated with public transport. Image: ACT Government.

The ACT Government has opted for a more modest building to house the new Canberra Institute of Technology at Woden after taking on board feedback from its first round of public consultation on the project.

It announced last November that the new CIT campus would be sited in the Woden Town Centre alongside the new Transport Canberra Interchange, and later said it could be up to 16-storeys high and include apartments and an indoor sports facility as part of mixed-use development.

But yesterday (29 July), Minister for Tertiary Education Chris Steel said the community had preferred well-integrated buildings of up to 12 storeys, featuring activated common areas and green spaces.

As part of the project’s design development, the ACT Government sought community feedback on topics such as building heights and layout, green space ratios, connectivity to local facilities, public transport integration and sustainable design features.

A design utilising the full site footprint to accommodate modest height buildings and green space was overwhelmingly preferred, selected by 46.5 per cent of respondents.

Most (33%) preferred six to 12 storeys, and key considerations identified by respondents included green space opportunity (68%), seamless integration with the area (34%) and the visual impact of the campus (25%).

Asked about the building’s external façade, respondents indicated a preference for a futuristic (20%) and modern (19%) aesthetic, although a design which acknowledged the local flora, fauna and history of the area was also important (15%).

Mr Steel said that in coming weeks the government would be seeking interest from architecture firms in the ongoing development and refinement of the campus design, incorporating the feedback gathered.

“By engaging early we have been able to identify what matters most to the community, which in turn will help us fully realise the benefits of this project in supporting Woden to become a place where people want to live, work and study,” he said.

“Woden residents can expect to see a state-of-the-art teaching campus that incorporates new green spaces, connected with high-quality public transport and community facilities.”

Mr Steel said construction was due to begin next year, with the project set to support 520 jobs, as well as aid long-term economic growth in the area.

Fiona Carrick

Fiona Carrick says the choice of the proposed CIT site lacks vision. Photo: File.

But former president of the Woden Valley Community Council and independent candidate for Murrumbidgee Fiona Carrick says the site next to and on the interchange may not be the best strategic choice for Woden.

She argues that a land-use plan is needed to determine the best sites to connect the CIT with a possible arts centre and a multi-purpose sports stadium to bring a campus feel to the area.

In a letter to Chief Minister Andrew Barr, Ms Carrick suggests the government buy and refurbish the existing Lovett Tower and Borrowdale House on the Woden Town Square to deliver a CIT and an Arts Centre to the region.

”While I welcome your commitment to a CIT in the Woden bus interchange, it would be better placed centrally to support the community and small business with an active Town Square,” she wrote to Mr Barr.

”Given Lovett Tower and Borrowdale House are mothballed, there is an opportunity for the ACT Government to purchase them, with the Town Square becoming a student courtyard that would provide the feeling of a campus. This site would enable the development of a community hub with the Woden Library and the Health Centre in the next buildings.”

Ms Carrick says the CIT siting is more ad hoc decision-making without a vision for a precinct.

”We need to determine the policy objectives we are trying to achieve in addition to a great education. It is not integration with a bus interchange it is about leveraging the CIT to make Woden a great place that attracts people to it for social, cultural and recreational activities,” she says.

”When we talk about green areas, we want them to be at ground level and available to the public, not just on the roof. Unfortunately, the site takes up the whole area and is in the shade of the 18 and 26-storey Grand Central.”

Ms Carrick says there was no actual consultation on the site itself.

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Just watch – after the election, this will all change. Developers will again have free rein across all of the ACT, just like they did before. In 4 years time, lo and behold, we will go through the same lying, deceptive and temporary process.

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