Canberra developer Keggins plans to proceed with a multi-storey mixed-use development up to 24 storeys high on the edge of the Woden Town Square after purchasing Borrowdale House on 30 October.
The former Woden post office site came with a 10-year-old approved development application for a three-tower structure and podium which Keggins is now seeking to amend, but the bulk of the proposal is unchanged.
Keggins’ $75 million proposal for the 2229 square metre site is for 222 apartments, ground floor commercial tenancies, and car parking on two basement levels, ground and podium levels 1 to 4.
The apartments will cover levels 6 to 24 in three tower buildings of 14, 20 and 24 storeys in height. The project has been released to market under the name ‘W2’, and Keggins says it will better activate the Town Square.
But the Woden Valley Community Council has long opposed this development, which it says has slipped through the cracks after the DA lay dormant through various changes of ownership and until the removal of hazardous material was completed in 2019 as a condition of the original approval.
In 2010 the Council had appealed unsuccessfully to then Planning Minister Andrew Barr to call in the DA and reject it.
The Council says the planning authority gave the DA the go-ahead in March this year, without consulting the community.
The bid to amend the DA, which the Council says only makes marginal changes, will allow it to again comment on the proposal.
Woden Valley Community Council president Fiona Carrick said the Council was worried about building height, wind effects and potential overshadowing of the Square, although the DA says the development retains more than three hours of solar access for the Town Square between 9:00 am and 3:00 pm on the winter solstice.
”W2 imposes a large overwhelming building over the Woden Town Square which is currently being used more and more as a place to relax and meet friends,” she said.
”W2 will overshadow the square in the afternoons, it is likely to exacerbate the wind funnelling past Lovett Tower and impact the future of any entertainment precinct in the area by limiting music.”
She said the proposal damaged the opportunity to encourage active fronts and rebuild the ‘soul’ in the core of Woden to attract people to it again and again.
Buildings can be 28 storeys around the Town Square but the 26-storey Lovett Tower is currently the only high-rise.
Ms Carrick ran as an Independent in the last ACT election and believes there is support in the community for lower building heights to protect the integrity of the Square.
But Keggins general manager Brett Smith said the shadow and wind analysis remained unchanged from the approved assessment and showed little impact on the amenity of the Town Square, with only minor shadowing late in the afternoon.
“Keggins is excited to contribute positively to the ailing disused Woden Town Square by creating opportunities for active uses, passive surveillance and hundreds of residents seeking to utilise the empty space,” he said.
“The project will contribute significantly to the local economy through creation of hundreds of jobs, stimulating business activity in the region and providing much needed housing immediately adjacent to work, recreation and public transport.
”It is quite simply good urban planning to densify city centres with existing infrastructure to support such proposals.”
Mr Smith said Keggins had been been overwhelmed with hundreds of enquiries and already had secured dozens of sales from people eager to live in the centre of Woden.
“Canberrans have for too long lived with empty buildings devoid of life around the Woden Town Centre,” he said.
The changes proposed by Keggins will increase the number of apartments from 208 to 222, and result in more parking spaces and landscaping.
There will be 120 one-bedroom, 96 two-bedroom and six three-bedroom units, as well as a total of 23 accessible units.
A total of 295 car parking spaces will be provided, including 21 adaptable and three accessible, and 23 for motorcycles.
There will be 190 storage lockers, as well as 210 spaces for bicycles.
Keggins developed the Sapphire, the final waterfront development in Kingston.