Government wants to lift Northbourne building heights in gateway plan

Ian Bushnell 2 March 2018 52

The City and Gateway Draft Urban Design Framework proposes higher building limits for the Northbourne corridor. Images from the Framework.

The ACT Government wants to lift building heights along Northbourne Avenue light rail corridor to a maximum of 48 metres and allow the development of 37,000 new dwellings as part of an overall growth plan for the main gateway to the capital.

The City and Gateway Draft Urban Design Framework released jointly by the ACT Government and the National Capital Authority for comment says the population of the city and gateway study area, currently about 54,000, is projected to reach 71,000 by 2030.

It has identified underutilised sites for renewal, including the surface car parks in the City Hill precinct around London Circuit and vacant land adjoining Parkes Way, and says two-thirds of development facing Northbourne Avenue is yet to reach the intended 25m building height.

The Framework says future development is likely to be mainly multi-unit housing along the corridor and at commercial centres.

It envisages a three-phase approach to the city, growing in development intensity with higher buildings allowed at key intersection nodes.

Where the development is proposed.

Between Exhibition Park and Antill Street building, heights are set at 8.5m, 12 and 18m, with 22m allowed at the Phillip Avenue light rail stop. From Antill Street to the City, heights increase to 25m plus 10 per cent, with 32m on the Dickson side of the Antill Street intersection and 48m at the Macarthur Avenue intersection.

The three precincts are the bushland Approach Route from the ACT border to the intersection of the Federal Highway with Flemington Road; the Informal Park Boulevard from Flemington
Road to Antill Street, characterised by a wide planted verge with a mix of endemic and introduced species with buildings visible through gaps in the tree line; and the Avenue, a strong urban boulevard from Antill Street to City Hill.

The Framework sees up to 11,000 new dwellings being developed under existing controls, 4000 from increased building heights, 8000 in an expanded city centre, including the city to the lake project, 6000 on key Government sites and 8000 in the Northern Investigation area covering the racecourse and Exhibition Park.

Proposed building heights for the corridor.

It envisages urban villages in Dickson and Macarthur to take advantage of light rail light and provide convenient higher-density housing, small-scale retail and employment opportunities.

It proposes an integrated transport system that incorporates walking and cycling paths and tracks, and diverts through traffic from Northbourne Avenue to alternative routes.

Car parking should be out of sight either in basements or screened from view by occupiable floor space.

The Framework also envisages recreational parks in strategic locations such as Haig Park and Sullivans Creek.

Implementation of the Framework will require changes to the National Capital Plan and Territory Plan.

To view the Framework and have your say, go here.

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52 Responses to Government wants to lift Northbourne building heights in gateway plan
Belconandonandon Belconandonandon 12:53 pm 07 Mar 18

This seems like a really good plan. It’ll be great to see Northbourne Avenue transformed into the grand urban boulevard it was always meant to be, rather than the soulless traffic sewer it currently is.

Paul Scott Paul Scott 8:55 am 07 Mar 18

Canberra is known as the Bush Capital, a unique city that had a certain charm and grace about it, like small european cities .The excessive development plans that never seems to stop, will ultimately change the feel of Canberra forever. Why our local government is so focused on building new ugly high rises is a mystery and is certainly not a progressive vision.

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 10:47 am 07 Mar 18

    I don’t agree entirely that Canberra has “charm and grace like small European cities”. Maybe some and I would like to hear of a couple of examples.

    Most small European cites I know were founded hundreds of years ago and were totally unplanned (unlike Canberra). Accordingly they generally have narrow streets and high density low-rise apartment type housing with no in-house car parking and very limited parking on the surrounding streets and lanes. Trams were chosen as they were the only form of mass transit 100 years ago with the motor car and motor bus being in their infancy of development. The current government appears to be trying to emulate this urban concept by having a tram close to “charmless and ungraceful” high density and high-rise apartments with minimal car parking and greenscaping and at the same time taking cars and busses out of the equation. They call this “urban renewal”

    I call it a social experiment disaster in progress.

Capital Retro Capital Retro 8:20 am 06 Mar 18

The ACT government will be praying this is just an abberation because if it isn’t it will be the end of the tram line for their fantasy:

    Belconandonandon Belconandonandon 12:44 pm 07 Mar 18

    Apartment approvals are quite volatile because there are many units in a single development application, plus it’s worth noting that over the year there were still more apartments approved than detached dwellings. I was looking for an apartment to rent in the inner north a year or so ago and there was a lot of competition (there were 50 people at one inspection). I think there’s plenty of demand for apartments close to the city.

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 2:29 pm 07 Mar 18

    Fair comment but while there were more apartments than houses approved only 438 were in the inner city with 397 being approved well to the south of LBG.
    It seems there is no appetite for new apartments where the government wants them to be namely along the tram track to Gungahlin.

    bringontheevidence bringontheevidence 9:41 am 09 Mar 18

    Developers aren’t silly, they won’t start construction on new buildings until they finish their existing projects. ‘Building Approval’ is the final step before digging starts, so those figures only capture buildings that are literally just about to start construction.

    There are currently around 6000 dwellings under construction across Canberra, with most of those (over 4000) being apartments, and with most of those apartments (more than 2000) being built in the Inner North.

jameskimgordon jameskimgordon 7:51 am 06 Mar 18

Everyone is complaining about tall buildings being aesthetically unpleasant. Need I remind you that Canberra has a high homelessness rate. I’ve seen people with who make 100k struggle to find rental apartments because 40 other people show up to the inspections.
We need more dwellings on the market. The only other options is to cut into the parks or build further away from the city. Which is environmentally unfriendly.

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 9:53 am 06 Mar 18

    Did it occur to you that Canberra is part of the national problem of too many people with not enough resources? This is the result of successive governments allowing unbridled immigration to keep the phony GDP inflated. It’s unsustainable.

    Ghettosmurf87 Ghettosmurf87 1:26 pm 08 Mar 18

    More correctly this is a result of a capitalist economy which values “growth” above all as a measure of success and therefore provides no discouragement for any limiting of population growth (be it through births or immigration) as an aid to the expansion of the economic base necessary for this continued “success”.

    Unbridled immigration is simply a symptom of this continual drive for growth above all, not the cause of all societies ills.

    TimboinOz TimboinOz 10:16 pm 08 Mar 18

    Maate, anyone who makes $100K a year and can’t afford to buy a dwelling, is spending too much money, instead of saving it.

    I do get very tired of being told how tough it is for the spendiferous Gen Yers.


    This government depends on land sales for revenue, this has distorted decision making and you haven’t noticed?!

    We lived through the high interest rate times for housing, while bringing up two kids. why can’t Gen-Y do it? Because way too few of you understand the basic ‘maths of finance’.

    Pay yourself first, instead of paying for things you want, but certainly don’t need.

    Learn to cook your own meals and stop eating out. Stop trying to keep up with tech.

    IT professional talking to you here.

    LBNL grow up!

Stuart Roesler Stuart Roesler 12:58 am 06 Mar 18

No need for new trees now. Plenty of shade got by brick.

Beth Mansfield Beth Mansfield 11:37 pm 05 Mar 18

The Canberra plan had a point. It did not include tall buildings. It also didn't include wind tunnels and damp areas that never saw direct sunlight. New rule, all new development must meet the same standards as 1920s.

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 12:44 am 06 Mar 18

    Beth Mansfield wrote, "New rule, all new development must meet the same standards as 1920s." Such as, no insulation, commonly only one heater (besides the kitchen fuel stove and chip heater in the bathroom) that being likely a fireplace in the lounge room. The wood had to be chopped. No electric hot water; the water was boiled on the stove or was heated by the fuel stove (after you chopped the wood) and the chip heater in the bathroom supplied the bath. The hand basin didn't have hot water; nor the laundry, except for the water boiled in the copper, after you chopped the wood. That should meet the 1920 standards. Also only a few people had cars; the rest walked or cycled. Unfortunately these days that would be further to go than in those days, as Canberra is now more spread out, and will continue to spread out if developments are build on large blocks as in 1920.

    Beth Mansfield Beth Mansfield 12:59 am 06 Mar 18

    Not in Canberra dear. And don't argue with me on this, I have tertiary qualifications and a ten year career in the area. Canberra was advanced. That was the point.

Trevor Watson Trevor Watson 9:43 pm 05 Mar 18

I wonder will the windows facing Northbourne be double glazed to stop the noise from the trams rumbling past?

Stephen Bejamin Duff Stephen Bejamin Duff 8:24 pm 05 Mar 18

Lets put 37,000 new dwellings on the main avenue in and out of the city. (That is also now juggling a new light rail transport infrastructure.) What could possibly go wrong... 😂😂😂😂😂

    Justin Watson Justin Watson 8:38 pm 05 Mar 18

    The people who live in them are likely to also be happy using light rail. That is what the light rail was for. Otherwise if you have a suggestion for where we could put new dwellings, I'm sure the ACT government would love to know. Further and further out increases urban sprawl, which actually pushes the cost per dwelling of providing services up and thus rates will go up even more than they are now.

    Stephen Bejamin Duff Stephen Bejamin Duff 8:54 pm 05 Mar 18

    I've lived off Northbourne and worked in the city. I rode and never used public transport. I also avoided the Avenue as ive seen the rushing commuters and bad driving. I also know people living on the avenue whom refuse to travel by any other means than personal cars. The light rail has no use to me or people I know personally. As far as new dwellings, ive been trying to get into the property market only to be outbid by interstate and international buyers investing and taking advantage of Canberra's insane market. The value for the shoe boxes you buy now dont appeal to me especially when they start at 1/3-1/2 a million dollars... I can't suggest a better plan for Canberra as I don't much recognized or feel the same for the place as I did growing up.

Heavs Heavs 7:52 pm 05 Mar 18

From the look of that map it seems the Dickson Parklands will be safe. Phew.

Andrew Jack Andrew Jack 7:37 pm 05 Mar 18

Yes we need to emulate those “cosmopolitan “ cities that were so well planned and executed.....NOT

    Mark Bailey Mark Bailey 9:42 pm 05 Mar 18

    I love the way they want to increase the number of dwellings then decrease the size of the main road from 3 to 2 lanes. Makes perfect sense!

    Toshak Akita Toshak Akita 7:06 am 06 Mar 18

    C'mon Mark, they've been this smart and commonsensical for years....😂😂

Wing Nut Wing Nut 6:00 pm 05 Mar 18

It’s not the plan itself but the execution is what scares me. You only have to look at the abomination that is Gungahlin and the concrete wastelands of Coombes and Wright to see this Government is totally incapable of delivering aesthetically pleasing, environmentally friendly urban highrise with buildings that won’t leak after one decent shower!

    Belconandonandon Belconandonandon 12:46 pm 07 Mar 18

    I don’t think it’s quite fair to judge those newly-established suburbs on looks just yet. It takes time for vegetation to mature and for a variety of architectural styles to be built. If you look at old pictures of the inner north and south, they looked pretty barren when they were first developed.

    Wing Nut Wing Nut 7:08 pm 08 Mar 18

    You’re right, it is unfair. It will be a green field again in 30-50 years because none of those dwellings will last that long.

gooterz gooterz 1:39 pm 05 Mar 18

Every other city Is trying to solve congestion issues we’re hell-bent on trying to create one.

People like Dickson now because of businesses there. Those same businesses won’t survive with the jump in rates etc.

Why build above 30 metres outside of the town centre where we have Sydney and Melbourne buildings that are only 2 stories.

“Logic should be out of sight either in basements or screened from view by occupiable floor space.”

If this was the plan all along, why not just sink Northbourne or build over the top of it.

In the end it’ll be cheaper to flood Sullivan’s creek and put in a ferry.

Long term, if the plan is to have a city wide rail, why would anyone buy in the next 10 years along the first route. Every other route would be better eventually, or not get built at all.

Maybe we could all go down the path of Aubrey -Wodonga. Split the city in half at the lake and give each equal funding.

Andriy Opryshko Andriy Opryshko 1:16 pm 05 Mar 18

Brian Achanfuo-Yeboah time to sell?

Warwick Alsop Warwick Alsop 1:01 pm 05 Mar 18

Only do it if they're going to provide parking and plan for increased traffic, otherwise the place will end up like Sydney.

    Drew Reis Drew Reis 2:31 pm 05 Mar 18

    ^ ✅Parking should always be underground.... Parking-lots are a blight on the landscape...

    Stephen Bejamin Duff Stephen Bejamin Duff 8:26 pm 05 Mar 18

    Wont be much of a landscape when all you see is high rise crammed together and bumper to bumper traffic 😅

Alex Thomson Alex Thomson 12:55 pm 05 Mar 18

I see that most people immediately react negatively to increased height limits, but only cite crappy, ugly buildings when asked why.

You don't actually have an issue with tall buildings, but with bad buildings. The answer to which is tighter planning and compliance, not low building heights.

Drew Reis Drew Reis 12:11 pm 05 Mar 18

This will be spectacular unlike the farce that it has been for way too long. Bring on the bold new avenue! Showcasing Canberra in the 21st century.

I agree, though - much higher than proposed on that corridor. Currently, why is it like $1mill + for 12th floor (upper) apartments in this city? When you can pay 1.8million on the 56th floor - one floor below the penthouses in the heart of Surfers Paradise!! Canberra has it wrong re: so many missing “levels” however charging the earth for virtually no to limited views?

Canberra barely has “mid-rise” buildings. So why the high-price with no “high-rise”?

Robert McMahon Robert McMahon 11:55 am 05 Mar 18

They didn’t say that when pushing through the initial rejigging of Northborne and cutting down of a thousand trees.

    Andrew McClure Andrew McClure 10:00 pm 05 Mar 18

    Yes they did. A version of this plan has been around for years.

Tim Benson Tim Benson 11:08 am 05 Mar 18

What a great idea. Why stop at 50 metres? Get a bit of life into the young city. Hopefully we can mix some commercial and community in there as well. Hopefully these building will be designed with drone delivery in mind? I’d love to see space available for universities, schools and training and also shared workspaces for the gig economy – and of course fast internet …

Margaret Freemantle Margaret Freemantle 10:59 am 05 Mar 18

No, no, and no. Can't just change the rules half way through the game. We are the bush capital and there is already a city half full of dodgy buildings and on the increase. Progress does not mean high rise

    Alex Thomson Alex Thomson 12:51 pm 05 Mar 18

    Actually it does. You can't have half a million people in Canberra all living on quarter acre blocks. You'd have to develop the entire Namadji national park to do that

    Margaret Freemantle Margaret Freemantle 1:17 pm 05 Mar 18

    Slow down the growth then- wait, we have to pay for the already outdated light rail!!! I am amused but the interpretation of progress. Have you experienced the chaos (not ordered either) of Sydney lately? If that is what you want, move there

    Tim Elliott Tim Elliott 2:09 pm 05 Mar 18


    How exactly do you stop people moving to Canberra or having children?

    And part of the reason why Sydney is so bad is because they have been unable to complete the type of early planning required.

    By rejecting these changes, you're actually ensuring Canberra becomes more like the mess in Sydney, not less.

    Justin Watson Justin Watson 3:14 pm 05 Mar 18

    You can't tell businesses who are growing, sorry don't create more jobs and thus growth in the territory. Even the government departments grow with the needs of the country. There are a few options and the best by far is to restrict taller buildings to town centres and the city/northbourne Ave. Alternatively, they could allow for 4 townhouses to be built on the block of land next door to you? Or they can infill on the green spaces around the city. The tall buildings is by far the best answer and it means keeping the bushland character intact. Yes the light rail will be needed (it costs less than 1% of the ACT budget), again to prevent the issues with poor planning that occurs in cities around the world with inadequate roads and public transport.

Capital Retro Capital Retro 9:33 am 05 Mar 18

It would be helpful if the “artist’s conceptions” that always accompany media releases from this government were consistent with what they are saying. The one used in this article is no exception with (again) no poles and wires anywhere for the trams and at least three road vehicle lanes each way next to marked bicycle lanes when we are told there will be only two vehicle lanes and a separated bicycle lane in the median strip.

It’s reality mimicking fantasy in this case.

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