26 June 2017

Have a Zetland holiday - a future CBR experience

| Paul Costigan
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For people who live in the older tree-filled suburbs of Canberra, being not only the inner north but also out to west Belconnen and the older parts of Woden, Weston and inner Tuggeranong – I have a holiday experience for you.

This should be seen as experiencing a future Canberra if our glorious leaders have their way in planning and their mates in development are let loose.

So if you are off to Sydney, I suggest you try Zetland– a totally redeveloped area just north of the airport.

To confuse the punter, as the area was being developed over the last couple of decades, the developers did not favour the former industrial suburb name of Zetland – bad for marketing. Hence we have a range of terms being used such as Green Park, East Village and Victoria Park.

First the positives: The Meriton Zetland Apartments are in that modern beige/grey style (boring?), well fitted out and good for short stays.

When on special, they are good value – something to be noted given that most of Sydney apartment accommodation is no longer cheap.

There is a small human scale mall, East Village, just a short walk away and cafes and restaurants spread throughout the area. It is a great place for holiday or business accommodation.

It is a safe place to be as people spend time outside. At night in the Meriton complex they have security that watch the internal courtyards – and they have big dogs to keep them company.

They are fairly quiet. In fact the last time there we were joined by a very loud group on the same floor. A quick word to the reception and all the noise disappeared.

Now for a comment or two from a planning and architectural perspective.

This is apartment heaven just as certain local politicians would see delivered across Dickson and other cherished areas of Canberra.

Zetland is a sea of very ordinary apartment boxes and towers. I know people who shudder at the thought of going there. Get over it – and give it a go.

There are several well-designed parks and many of the streets are tree-lined. Some streets have a very generous canopy. But all this is dressing up for the rows and rows of grey/white/beige apartment buildings.

Warning! This could soon be Northbourne Ave – let alone nearby suburbs.

There are about 20,000 people living in this area; being all sorts but predominately the residents (owners and renters) are youngish. Having said that, we have spotted the occasional retired residents.

The atmosphere when you wander around is safe and friendly – but you do feel as though you are no longer in Australia. This is not your normal suburb.

One thing that does remind you of home. The place is full of dogs. Not sure where they are all during the day – but in the evening they are everywhere – so watch where you step on that green grass after dark or early morning.

I do recommend Zetland as a place to go, to stay a short while, to travel to other places across Sydney and to have the experience of being somewhere not like Canberra’s older suburbs – but maybe the future.

From a planning / architectural perspective, this is what you get when developers do what they can with a new site; it was a brown-fill site – there were industrial thingys and swamps here before all this.

Developers love to build blocks of apartments and to do so without any real vision for what the whole place will end up looking like. Any one of the buildings may have been fine if it was alone among other well-designed buildings. In Zetland well-designed external features are rare. Most are bland boxes/towers.

Yes a couple of buildings have green roofs, and they were used to gain awards, but they are in the minority; and I doubt that those green roofs actually do much besides look pretty (if you are high enough to see them at all) and demand a lot of maintenance.

So there you have it. It is an economical place to stay if you are looking for a modern apartment with links into the city or other suburbs.

Once you are in – and you want to head north for a visit? Then the tunnel to the North Sydney suburbs is just outside but make sure you use the Epsom/Link Roads entry to the M1.

Want to go to Surrey Hills or downtown Sydney? Jump on one of the several regular buses (get hold of an Opal Card) that run along the northern edge (O’Dea St – 302 or 303) or the western edge (Joynton Ave – 301).

Catch the bus into Sydney and enjoy the sights along the way – get off on Crown Street in Surrey Hills and walk around – eat, have a coffee, window shop, watch the people, buy a book – and then get back on a bus to continue into the city or to return to wonderful downtown Zetland.

The buses will take you into the middle of the city and down to Circular Quay (catch a ferry from there). If you get off at the Martin Place stop it is a short walk over to the AGNSW or the Mitchell Library.

If you choose not to have that Zetland experience – no matter, I am sure that our glorious leaders will have it built around us here in Canberra as soon as they can.

Anyone out there with a different Zetland experience?

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Sounds like a good compromise between providing the accommodation density required to allow people to live closer to the City and economic centres and maintaining a reasonable level of liveability in those areas.

As for developers trying to change the names of areas to make them more appealing, sounds like the Dickson “parklands”.

And the duplexes of Dickson, Downer and Lyneham and the existing Northborne Ave flats and office buildings are of such a high quality of design and construction hey?

IMO anything is going to be better what is already there.

You might have valid points but this city will go nowhere, when its comprised of whinging about things without solutions. If parts of Canberra end up like Zetland, its not the end of the world by any means, as people will still want to live there and enjoy living there, mostly for convenience and likely proximity to infrastructure.

The population density has to be increased in Canberra somewhere. We can’t just keep building on the outskirts and building more roads. I think if you ask Canberrans, would you rather have some medium-high density residential along transport corridors vs infilling on existing parks, they’d all choose the former.

I agree though developers get away with many things and they scream murder, when their lucrative profit margins are touched, but it would be nice to see some requirements around the aesthetics of apartments. Then again, I’m yet to see apartment buildings around the world look that great. They are all about functional inner city living and not about being some amazing architectural design.

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