28 October 2019

Luxury Arboretum eco-lodge to house 100 guests among the trees

| Ian Bushnell
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National Arboretum senior director Scott Saddler

National Arboretum senior director Scott Saddler on the site of the proposed eco-lodge. Photo: Michelle Kroll, Region Media.

The proposed hotel at the National Arboretum is now being called an eco-lodge and wellness centre, and the ACT Government has gone to the market to find a developer to design, build and operate the envisaged luxury accommodation complex among the trees.

The eco-lodge would be located on Forest 69, a one-hectare clear site adjacent Dairy Farmers Hill with 360-degree views of the Lake Burley Griffin and the city, as well as the Brindabellas.

National Arboretum senior director Scott Saddler said early concepts show 20 cabins arranged in a horseshoe, immersed in a new forest, while the wellness centre for yoga, massage and spa baths would be built within the existing Forest 76 behind, a block of pinus radiata.

He said an area would need to be cleared to accommodate the wellness centre and 20 more cabins but this pine forest had reached the point where it needed to be thinned anyway.

The whole facility would have capacity for about 100 guests.

Eco-lodge concept design

An early design concept for the eco-lodge.

The project requires the approval of the National Capital Authority, which requested the concept change to eco-lodge and guided the government on what would be an acceptable development.

Documents for the market sounding say the project is designed to be integrated within its forest setting and convey the environmental values of the Arboretum.

Facilities will include a main building with food and beverage offers, reception, meeting rooms and accommodation, and the 40-60 rooms may be a series of villas or pods.

It could take the form of a villa leisure/conference resort incorporating functions/conference facilities, a wellness centre/spa retreat and parking at a minimum.

The government is seeking a lease of at least 40 years.

Mr Saddler said accommodation had always been part of the original design and there was growing appetite for this kind of bespoke accommodation, saying there was not a comparable offering within Australia.

He said it would add to the city and the Arboretum’s attractions, and with the Arboretum and 94 of its 100 forests firmly established it was the perfect time to move to the next phase of the project.

Eco-lodge proposed development site

Eco-lodge proposed development site.

The Arboretum concept had been met with a lot of negativity initially but the exploding visitor numbers had vindicated its establishment, with Mr Saddler saying they had just topped four million total visitors since 2013.

“We needed the people to fall in love with the Arboretum before we extended to the next phase,” Mr Saddler said.

“This will be immersed in its own forest, own landscaping, own turf and will add to the amenity and beautification of the National Arboretum.”

Proponents would be able to have input into the eco-lodge’s design but Mr Saddler did not expect the overall concept to change markedly. Early concept designs will be presented to the NCA on 9 December and it may be able to make a decision by the mid-2020.

But a project timeline depends on what interest, expected to be national and from overseas, comes back to the ACT Government.

How much it would cost to stay at the eco-lodge would be a matter for the operator.

A one-hour group industry briefing will be held onsite at the National Arboretum on 25 November.

The market sounding closes on 20 February 2020.

The Arboretum has recently opened a new trails network and is moving to install a permanent amphitheatre stage for regular concerts, which had also been part of the original plans.

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Luxury eco lodges for the rich? Where is that progressive and social vision of Labor and the Greens, or anybody for that matter? Are you too busy kowtowing to the neoliberal god?
How about basic tiny houses for Canberra’s 1,600 known homeless citizens, complete with regular bus services to town centres? I can hear the objections already, “We can only do good after we have done well.” J’accuse!

HiddenDragon6:40 pm 29 Oct 19

I assume this area will end up as residential – probably after the next big fires – but if this development helps to defray some of the ongoing costs to the ACT Budget in the meantime, then fine, go for it.

It all still looks fairly bleak in those aerial photos, so guests expecting to find themselves tucked away amidst the “forest primeval” are going to be a bit disappointed.

Capital Retro9:55 am 29 Oct 19

“…..other cases where tax payers incur the debt and private developer keeps the profit?”

The green recycling businesses at MLRMC where the public provide the green resource for free and the business operator pays a peppercorn rent for what is now a huge dust and odour producing industrial site.

Capital Retro9:51 am 29 Oct 19

“Bespoke” is usually reserved for the morally vain and the uber rich. It’s appropriate in this proposal because the average ratepayer will either be unable to afford it or simply not interested.

Capital Retro6:25 pm 28 Oct 19

Not long ago I said “what next at the arboretum, a mud spa?”

Looks like I was close but not in my wildest dreams did I think it could be what is being proposed now. It’s time for an enquiry into everything that is going on there including the finances, how much everyone is being paid etc.

If Alistair Coe needs an issue to focus on for the next election this is it.

20 cabins for 100 peoples ? And what on earth is a wellness centre.

Sorry but make it 200 cabins , for 1,000 people, with a casino. It’s prime prime land because of the squillion dollar view. Mr Barr could have made a hefty payment off his tram by selling that view.

The 4 million people who have been there have not gone to look at half grown trees, hell Canberra is full of trees, no they go for the coffee and one of the best views this place has to offer.

Flog it off and help stabilise our rates.

It’s the NCA who pushed for this solution, I think the ACT gov wanted a proper hotel.

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