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

Ian Bushnell 28 October 2019 31
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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31 Responses to Luxury Arboretum eco-lodge to house 100 guests among the trees
iamthat iamthat 8:14 am 30 Oct 19

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!

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 6:40 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 Retro Capital Retro 9:55 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 Retro Capital Retro 9:51 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.

Darron Marks Darron Marks 9:47 am 29 Oct 19

You could build a cafe a gift shop a really nice restaurant experience you could have a trust setup or guided tours.

But no we must flog it off for some kind of wellness centre ??

    Neenie Baines Neenie Baines 7:24 am 30 Oct 19

    Darron Marks other than the cafe, gift shop and restaurant already located at the arboretum?

    Darron Marks Darron Marks 10:53 am 30 Oct 19

    Exactly so then why do you need a health wellness centre ?

Bek Clark Bek Clark 8:13 am 29 Oct 19

Why did he keep banging on about “bespoke”? All buildings are built to individual specifications. All buildings are bespoke.

Try again.

Dory Johns Dory Johns 9:44 pm 28 Oct 19

Somewhat more information needed. Sounds rather like another case where the ACT taxpayer incurs the debt and the private developer keeps the profit. What's the ROI for the ACT?

    Frederica Heacock Frederica Heacock 11:13 pm 28 Oct 19

    Dory Johns what are the other cases where tax payers incur the debt and private developer keeps the profit?

Jim Jim Jim Jim 9:05 pm 28 Oct 19

Sorry it’s been done before!

    Jim Jim Jim Jim 9:06 pm 28 Oct 19

    In all seriousness, credit to Jon Stanhope for making the Arboretum happen.

Darron Marks Darron Marks 8:45 pm 28 Oct 19

Great the trees haven't even grown yet and already they are trying to flog of parts of it for a luxury eco resort 🙄

Can you just leave it alone and keep it for community use for people to enjoy ?

Mick Andrews Mick Andrews 8:11 pm 28 Oct 19

Pftttt just build more Mountain bike trails plz

Billy Watson Billy Watson 7:55 pm 28 Oct 19

At first glance, I love this idea... but as a boutique offering, it likely won’t benefit the vast majority of local residents. Yet, it is the PUBLICLY tax-payer funded arboretum that is supporting this “luxury” venture. That’s all well and good, so long as at least a small portion of profits goes back to maintaining and growing the arboretum more broadly for the benefit of the general population.

Karen Joy Stone Nowak Karen Joy Stone Nowak 7:03 pm 28 Oct 19

Because we need more "luxury accommodation" located right across the road from the luxury zoo accommodation!!! :)

Angela Hunter Angela Hunter 6:46 pm 28 Oct 19

"Luxury" wellness. Because we don't want your shitty average wellness for people with stress related illness. No we want the posh version with fluffy towels, Boli' and a 'Guru' from Newtown 😏

How about a wellness centre where those with real stresses, like caring for a disabled relative 24/7 for 30 years or coming from a traumatic situation, could go and rest, recuperate, and maybe get a hot rock session ...and a bit of Boli thrown in. 😏


    Lori J Tas Lori J Tas 6:53 pm 28 Oct 19

    Angela Hunter average wellness you can do anywhere, take your yoga mat, do some tai chi, pack hummus and carrot sticks and snack anywhere in the aboretum.

    Respite care services aren't something you should expect from the tourism industry.

    Angela Hunter Angela Hunter 6:58 pm 28 Oct 19

    LJ Tas yeah true 🙄 But I just kind of resent the use of good space, which should ultimately be public, just so some consortium somewhere can cash in on financially well off tourists.

    I'm not suggesting respite care for the caree... I'm simply saying why couldn't the space be better utilised by offering something everyone can afford and not just bored housewives who's biggest stress is little Briony's first ballet recital 😉

    Andrea Kerr Andrea Kerr 6:39 am 29 Oct 19

    Angela Hunter perhaps letting go of some bitterness towards others might reduce your own stress. Being angry at others because they are not doing it tough enough is rather spiteful and probably unhealthy for you.

    Angela Hunter Angela Hunter 8:01 am 29 Oct 19

    Andrea Kerr 😂 I'm not bitter nor am I stessed. I just think we have an urgent need for wellness in our communities that's affordable.

    Margaret Freemantle Margaret Freemantle 9:10 am 29 Oct 19

    Angela Hunter love your thinking!!!

    Margaret Freemantle Margaret Freemantle 9:13 am 29 Oct 19

    Andrea Kerr the Aboretumshould Be kept as a space for all, not a select few. Places for Tai Chi, a chapel, seating, etc but universal

    Andrea Kerr Andrea Kerr 10:29 pm 29 Oct 19

    Angela Hunter wellness is free all around you if you want to access it. A retreat isn’t required simply the right attitude and a little creativity. Mindfulness, yoga, meditation, nature, fresh air.

    Angela Hunter Angela Hunter 10:33 pm 29 Oct 19

    Andrea Kerr exactly. So why do we need a public space devoted to rich people getting wellness? 😊

    Andrea Kerr Andrea Kerr 7:24 am 30 Oct 19

    Angela Hunter why do you think it’s only for rich people.

    Angela Hunter Angela Hunter 7:40 am 30 Oct 19

    Andrea Kerr because it's a "luxury" wellness place. Luxury doesn't come cheap 😊

Capital Retro Capital Retro 6:25 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.

MERC600 MERC600 6:21 pm 28 Oct 19

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.

    areaman areaman 10:20 am 29 Oct 19

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

Leisa Newman Leisa Newman 6:18 pm 28 Oct 19

Jeremy Mather.... “design” 👌🏽

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