A new hotel, cabins among the trees and 50 newly planted zig-zag gardens in the central valley of the National Arboretum are all coming closer as the site grows faster than a rogue willow tree. And that means that what began as a patchwork of forests is rapidly changing shape as it expands commercially.
The hotel idea isn’t a new one: it formed part of the Arboretum’s infrastructure master plan. A range of five to ten years was initially indicated as a timeline, and the expression of interest process was slated to begin when economic conditions were “suitable”. It seems that time may be now.
The ACT government expects that an Expression of Interest for the hotel will be released next year, investigating potential development partnerships. It’s quite possible those investors may come from overseas: a spokesman for the Chief Minister said that an Arboretum hotel has been identified as a future opportunity during recent trade missions.
Mr Barr said recently that the acquisition of Hotel Hotel at New Acton by the Hong Kong-based Ovolo Group indicated the effectiveness of the international trade mission process and the interest in Canberra from internationally based investors.
Friends of the Arboretum president Trish Keller is enthusiastic about the potential and thinks “the sooner the better” for the project. “At the moment we have this wonderful site, with lots of events, weddings and the like, but there’s nowhere to stay if people afterwards want to relocate. Cabins in the forest would also be well received, I think, similar to the accommodation at the zoo. It’s a great opportunity and an ideal location.”
She says interest in the Arboretum as a tourist destination and venue as well as an attraction for locals continues to be very high. “The visitors are just continuing to come. People say to me, I’m staying in town where should I go for a really special lunch, somewhere memorable? And of course, for me, the answer is always the Arboretum.”
The next major development includes 24 gardens in the Central Valley, placed along the zigzag path stretching from the entry gates to the Village Centre. Each garden bed will be planted with a particular species and Arboretum director Scott Saddler says interest has already been surprisingly strong. “We have the prospectus out but we haven’t even got the project off the ground yet and already we have commitments for five gardens.”
The gardens will be matched by the avenue of trees already being planted by dignitaries, various world leaders and celebrities in an ongoing programme. Eventually, there are plans to incorporate a water feature cascading down the spine of the path, creating a more pedestrian-friendly environment for casual strolls.
On Tuesday night (13 November) the Friends of the Arboretum will launch their first fundraising campaign. They’re seeking $50,000 after committing to sponsoring one of the zigzag gardens and Trish Keller says they’ll launch a few balloons, pop some champagne corks and celebrate the next stage of growth.
Do you think there should be a hotel at the Arboretum?