A makeover is being proposed for Civic Square so it can be integrated into a broader cultural precinct that will see a redeveloped Canberra Theatre and the new Government Office Building but may also see Civic Library move from its present location.
In the tender document for a consultant to develop a plan to transform the area into the premier arts and cultural precinct in Canberra and the region, the City Renewal Authority says Civic Square has been a ‘missed opportunity’.
“With work commenced on the new Government Office Building, and the proposed redevelopment of the Canberra Theatre, an opportunity presents itself to prepare a framework to ensure these developments are integrated with thinking around a broader precinct,” it says.
The proposed Civic, Arts and Cultural Precinct is located immediately to the east of City Hill, bounded by Vernon Circle, London Circuit, Constitution Avenue and Northbourne Avenue.
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The successful consultant’s brief will be to re-imagine Civic Square, and develop at least three designs within a new urban design framework and heritage considerations.
It calls for a review of existing uses in the precinct, particularly around Civic Square, and seeks ways to activate the ground floor space of adjacent buildings, including alternative uses for Civic Library and parts of the Canberra Museum and Gallery building.
The Authority also wants to see options to improve the laneways within the precinct, and a master plan developed that takes in the Theatre’s proposed redevelopment, the new Government Office Building, and future mixed-use land release.
“The master plan will need to consider National Capital Authority aspirations for City Hill and the radial streets connecting with it; as well as connectivity and integration with the future proposed site for a new convention centre and Northbourne Plaza/light rail terminus,” the tender document says.
The Authority wants new creative and cultural spaces to be identified, possibly through the development of release sites within the precinct or other means.
The work should include a development timeline, capital works program and a cost/benefit analysis.
The Authority believes any new plan must involve the new Government Office Building, which should be able to bring vibrancy to the area. But it warns doing nothing or a mediocre response could see Civic Square deteriorate.
“How this development is leveraged to spill over to bring vitality to the rest of the precinct requires consideration as part of this plan. Alternatively, failure to take bold action to revitalise the area, may result in the life being further sucked from the precinct as the Government office comes on line, and the Northbourne plaza development is delivered,” the Authority says.
Any proposals to redevelop Civic Square face a mix of planning and heritage hurdles, with the area also subject to the National Capital Authority.
“Development of the precinct, particularly to the extent it relates to the land axis between City Hill and Mount Ainslie, is restricted. Notwithstanding the significance of this axis [that] has eroded over time with the termination of Ainslie Place, the enclosure of the Theatre Link Building, and the QIC development of the Canberra Centre, the view corridor is still significant, and the NCA has previously resisted development above the level of Vernon Circle inside this corridor,” the tender documents says.
The successful tenderer will need to consult and engage with key stakeholders including the City Renewal Authority; ArtsACT; ACT Heritage Council; Libraries ACT; Cultural Facilities Corporation; National Capital Authority; Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development; and Treasury.