Skip to content Skip to main navigation

Opinion

Expert strata, facilities & building management services

Mix it up: Why mixed-use developments are key to Canberra’s future

By Kim Fischer - 23 November 2015 122

kippax map

The draft Kippax Town Centre master plan continues the ACT government’s work in modernising our group and town centres in line with contemporary planning principles.

Canberra’s period of highest growth and construction was during the 1960s, a time when town planning prized neatness and separation of use. By building highly segregated residential suburbs, commercial districts, and industrial zones, planners encouraged a high reliance on cars to access jobs and shops.

Aside from issues of sustainability and transport, the biggest problem with this old-fashioned planning approach is that commercial centres become dead zones after hours. This leads vandalism and crime, and areas being perceived as unsafe. Planners now recognise that mixing residential developments with commercial developments is an important “eyes on the street” solution. By creating public spaces where residents and shop patrons are potentially watching at any time, people feel safer and crime levels drop.

Mixed-use developments more closely mimic the natural way that human settlements evolve. They provide important benefits such as access to nearby work, greater housing diversity, a stronger neighbourhood character, and pedestrian/bicycle-friendly environments.

One great initiative from Canberra’s early days was the Y-plan. This embedded the concept of mixed-use at the district level, and ensured a range of employment locations outside of the CBD that have saved us from the worst of the commuter problems faced in cities like Melbourne.

Mixed-use is also key to most recent developments such as the proposed cross-border development in West Belconnen / Parkwood. Over the next 20-30 years, up to 11,000 dwellings will be constructed. Residents will be able to choose between different precincts and a range of building heights including an urban village (1 to 6 storeys), village edge (1 to 4 storeys), and garden suburbs (1-2 storeys). The higher density regions are designed from the ground up to integrate a variety of uses that will ensure greater vibrancy and a more consistent level of public activity.

Urban infill and densification in our town centres such as Manuka/Kingston and Belconnen has also relied upon mixed-use principles. A greater residential population has led to more cafes and restaurants operating outside of business hours, creating a feel of activity and life.

By comparison, group centres such as Kippax and Jamison haven’t evolved significantly and while they may be a hive of activity during the day, they feel quite lonely and exposed after hours.

The influential urban activist Jane Jacobs championed the benefits for “density in generating vitality and the economic and social importance of diversity”, but cautioned that planning needs “careful observation and analysis of the way urban places actually work, rather than focusing on their outward appearance”.

In Canberra, a key challenge is to improve the liveability of town and group centres while respecting that suburban areas with few local facilities like Spence and Flynn will rely upon car travel for the foreseeable future. Even here, mixed-use has big benefits. We are seeing more activity flowing back to local shops as our larger centres get busier, encouraging people in our suburbs to walk and take shorter trips.

We are all a product of our times. Some of these changes challenge how we think cities should work. As the planning and urban design firm David Lock Associates wrote: “It is essential that collective consent for the lifestyle and behavioural changes needed to ensure sustainable growth is attained. Collective consent creates a sense of ownership across a community. This requires open and transparent conversations, using a range of techniques and media, in developing a vision for the future.”

One conversation we need to have more is about the function of the Capital Metro tram as more than just a commuter solution. Tram routes are ideal for mixed-use redevelopment, transforming the places they pass into vibrant, local communities where people live, play and work. The social opportunities unlocked by the tram are substantial and it would be a shame if they were ignored because of short-sighted thinking from certain political groups.

Do you agree that mixed-use developments make Canberra more liveable and sustainable?

Kim Fischer is a regular RiotACT contributor who is set to become a Labor candidate for the seat of Ginninderra at the 2016 ACT election.

What’s Your opinion?


Post a comment
Please login to post your comments, or connect with
122 Responses to
Mix it up: Why mixed-use developments are key to Canberra’s future
rommeldog56 1:31 pm 24 Nov 15

rubaiyat said :

The problems of the “separation of use” were bleeding obvious and already much talked about in the ’60s with the failures of the same ideas in Britain.

But the Canberra Town Planners bravely ploughed on with the “Joy though Emptiness” of Belconnen, Tuggeranong, and the “Y Plan” which was just another attempt at making sense of something that never made sense: the bureaucratic interference and random attempts at stumbling onto something that “looked like” design, since they had successfully sabotaged WBG’s original plan for Canberra.

The conflicting intents and broken land allocation make a joke of everything that comes out of ACT planning, who seem to ignore climate, solar orientation, protection from winter winds, traffic flow, visual design, landscape and everything you would think might have been raised as pertinent to their chosen profession.

Instead what we have is pointless lines drawn all over the map, randomly buckling to commercial pressures, Wannabe features culled from magazines, and no quality control or checking on outcomes. In other words the shamble we have now.

I am surprised to say this, but I agree with some of your comments.

Even today, the good people of Gunners are claimed to be up in arms about high rises planned for the Gunners CBD that were approved immediately before new height restrictions were introduced under which, these newly approved high rises would apparently not have been approved. I wonder what consideration was given to aspect, quality of construction, aesthetics, road/traffic impact, etc.

Still, the Tram is coming to Gunners CBD, so they will have to suck that up I suppose – take any good with the bad.

Had a look at a unit in a high rise in Wright last weekend. It didn’t even have double glazed windows and construction/finish, for a display unit, was quite poor. Because all the balconies are vertically on top of each other (instead of staggered) the balcony of unit above blocks out all the east sun to that unit, the hallways look like something out of a 1960s high rise in the USSR – or from a hotel. Yuck.

justin heywood 7:35 am 24 Nov 15

rommeldog56 said :

…..No matter which party, if a candidate is contributing to discussion here, it should be disclosed prominently on each contribution/post, not tucked away in bio’s, in the small print, etc.

What would be the point of that on an anonymous forum? You just have to modify your name slightly or get a staffer to do it.

An occasional poster named Kimbelco has been here doing regular head-kicking on behalf of the local ALP since at least 2012.

rosscoact 6:40 am 24 Nov 15

drfelonious said :

I think the most important para in your post is the one where you mention the need for collective consent.

Sometimes you can only get a bare majority in favour of something, but you need to do everything in your power to get that majority, not shove something down the community’s throat.

I’m a big fan of the tram, but it is becoming increasingly evident to me that Andrew Barr is on an ideological crusade to redevelop Canberra and the views of local communities are regularly ignored. If this was part of a deeply held belief that the city would be better for mixed used development it wouldn’t be so hard to swallow, but I believe that much of the redevelopment is more about pulling in revenue from developers.

The contumelious disregard for the views of local Mawson residents about building heights in the latest Mawson plan is a case in point. A show was made of seeking community feedback, it was overwhelmingly against heights over 4 stories (over two rounds of feedback) but the marching orders are clear from the Chief Minister: BUILD IT ANYWAY!

Where’s the collective consent?

Collective consent is the ideal situation and should no doubt be an objective but lets face it, almost impossible to active on anything. After all, to get more than half the vote on being elected to represent the people in a compulsory vote is a major achievement. Historically it is less than that in a referendum where one party (for most often political reasons) is against any proposal.

If the traditional community consultation model is followed it is dominated by one demographic. If newer social media type consultation models are followed, it is arguably skewed to a different demographic. Inarguably the majority of the community is apathetic about any planning proposition, until it is implemented and the consequences impossible to ignore.

I believe that in most cases the consultation process is not at issue. The two major issues is that firstly, the Planning Authority has already made up its mind on the merits and is trying to convince or defend any proposal. By personal experience I know that they believe that they are the planners and hence superior in their subject matter knowledge with the corollary being that the residents views are mis-informed and hence its information not consultation that is necessary.

Secondly, the vast majority of people really don’t give a toss about planning changes up to and including the DA stage. Even after construction, it is only until or if people are inconvenienced that they care on the negative side or if they benefit on the positive side.

rommeldog56 10:35 pm 23 Nov 15

From the OP : “The social opportunities unlocked by the tram are substantial and it would be a shame if they were ignored because of short-sighted thinking from certain political groups.”

Now that we know the OP is standing for Labor in the ACT election, that comment makes more sense.

So, how short sighted is this. Where is the integrated transport plan for Canberra – based around the 2nd loss making public transport system, the Tram (in addition to ACTION). The only short sighted thinking from “certain political groups”, is coming from the ACT Labor/Greens Government and their war chest of monopoly money – donated by ACT Ratepayers to developers and Tram consortia.

Yep – you just have to love the robotic rethoric of politicians and aspiring politicians from either party – it’s just more from the same script. And there is another 12 months of this spin to go…….groan….

rommeldog56 10:26 pm 23 Nov 15

From the OP : “One conversation we need to have more is about the function of the Capital Metro tram as more than just a commuter solution.”

But a commuter solution to try to fix some of the poor planning by successive ACT Gov’t in Gunners, is just what it is. Trying to backwards reengineer that or spin it to be anything else is, is just disingenuous and insulting. After the Tram leaves Dickson and before it reaches Civic, there are 3 stops. Apart from the fact that its missing Braddon completely, I can not envisage 3 stops reinvigorating Northborne Avenue to any great extent – especially if passengers have to walk to a Tram stop on Northborne Ave at night in the dead of a Canberra winter.

rommeldog56 10:15 pm 23 Nov 15

From the OP : “It is essential that collective consent for the lifestyle and behavioural changes needed to ensure sustainable growth is attained. Collective consent creates a sense of ownership across a community. This requires open and transparent conversations, using a range of techniques and media, in developing a vision for the future.”

Does “open and transparent conversation” include :

. Investing b$1 of ratepayers money based on a benefits costs ratio (BCR) in the Tram business case of 1:1.2 ? There wouldn’t be a private sector company that would stay viable with that sort of investment strategy – even if it had a social objective.

. Not fully evaluating all other alternatives – just focusing on the Tram.

. Does “techniques” mean engineering survey questions/outcomes to claim that there is support for the Tram ? By signing contracts before the next election so locking in future genertations into a public private partnership contract.

. If the “vision” includes the laughable timeframe of extending the Tram to other CBDs over a 25 year timeframe, then it will remain only a vision. That timeframe is far, far too long – it is aspirational only (like “No Waste by 2008”) – to get ACT Labor/Greens out of the flack they were copping from the electorate over stage 1.

Unfortunately, any “collective consent/sense of ownership” was lost in the TRAM project early on.

farq 9:12 pm 23 Nov 15

> Residents will be able to choose between different precincts and a range of building heights including an urban village (1 to 6 storeys), village edge (1 to 4 storeys), and garden suburbs (1-2 storeys).

A garden suburb? that would be a change! Over the life of the Labor government, every new suburb has had smaller and smaller blocks. How can you have a Garden suburb when every house is 200m2 on a 400m2 block?

> The higher density regions are designed from the ground up to integrate a variety of uses that will ensure greater vibrancy and a more consistent level of public activity.

When has a higher density ‘region’ right on the literal edge of town ever worked out? No matter what your party and the developers try to sell us, it will be a dead space at night filled with nothing but low income apartment housing and closed shops.

There will never be any major employment in West Belconnen. It will be just like Gungahlin – everyone will drive a car (stuck in traffic on the insufficient roads that the ALP always seems to deliver) or spend hours on the underfunded bus network to get to work.

West Belconnen/Parkwood should be >800m2 blocks for upper income people to build nice new houses surrounded by gardens. Not a some social experiment that is merely an excuse to squeeze the most revenue from land sales.

High density and mixed use belongs in the areas close to anything. West Belconnen is going to be built in the boonies against and over the NSW border >30mins from ANYWHERE.

It’s the last good bit of land in ACT and the ALP is going to screw over the people of Canberra once again by delivering ANOTHER over built suburb where the only trees are on the nature strip and the token parks no one sends their kids to unsupervised.

The ALP has it backwards, the outer suburbs should not be more compact and claustrophobic. That crap belongs in places close to anything. The policy should be about turning the inner suburbs into mixed use (duel occupancy and multi story apartments) and building new actual garden suburbs further out.

Personally, I think the ALP will just make it back in the coming election and the last chance of building decent new area worth of our garden city will be lost forever.

drfelonious 8:48 pm 23 Nov 15

I think the most important para in your post is the one where you mention the need for collective consent.

Sometimes you can only get a bare majority in favour of something, but you need to do everything in your power to get that majority, not shove something down the community’s throat.

I’m a big fan of the tram, but it is becoming increasingly evident to me that Andrew Barr is on an ideological crusade to redevelop Canberra and the views of local communities are regularly ignored. If this was part of a deeply held belief that the city would be better for mixed used development it wouldn’t be so hard to swallow, but I believe that much of the redevelopment is more about pulling in revenue from developers.

The contumelious disregard for the views of local Mawson residents about building heights in the latest Mawson plan is a case in point. A show was made of seeking community feedback, it was overwhelmingly against heights over 4 stories (over two rounds of feedback) but the marching orders are clear from the Chief Minister: BUILD IT ANYWAY!

Where’s the collective consent?

rubaiyat 6:46 pm 23 Nov 15

rommeldog56 said :

Kim Fischer said :

Thanks for your question. I have always declared my intention to seek preselection for the ALP in my author bio. I am proud to say that over the weekend the rank and file members of the ALP voted for me to be one of the five candidates for Ginninderra.

I expect the party office to make an official announcement about the candidates for each of the electorates some time this week.

Kim Fischer
#BetterBelconnen

Well, that would explain some previous comments on here then.

No matter which party, if a candidate is contributing to discussion here, it should be disclosed prominently on each contribution/post, not tucked away in bio’s, in the small print, etc.

What difference does it really make?

Help you to instantly agree? Or shut your ears to anything worthwhile, because the wrong side is speaking?

Nobody is stopping you thinking for yourself.

Charlotte Harper 5:49 pm 23 Nov 15

I agree. As I have replied elsewhere, Kim’s candidacy will be mentioned at the end of each of her RiotACT stories from now on (pending official confirmation as per her note).

rommeldog56 5:22 pm 23 Nov 15

Kim Fischer said :

Thanks for your question. I have always declared my intention to seek preselection for the ALP in my author bio. I am proud to say that over the weekend the rank and file members of the ALP voted for me to be one of the five candidates for Ginninderra.

I expect the party office to make an official announcement about the candidates for each of the electorates some time this week.

Kim Fischer
#BetterBelconnen

Well, that would explain some previous comments on here then.

No matter which party, if a candidate is contributing to discussion here, it should be disclosed prominently on each contribution/post, not tucked away in bio’s, in the small print, etc.

rubaiyat 4:26 pm 23 Nov 15

The problems of the “separation of use” were bleeding obvious and already much talked about in the ’60s with the failures of the same ideas in Britain.

But the Canberra Town Planners bravely ploughed on with the “Joy though Emptiness” of Belconnen, Tuggeranong, and the “Y Plan” which was just another attempt at making sense of something that never made sense: the bureaucratic interference and random attempts at stumbling onto something that “looked like” design, since they had successfully sabotaged WBG’s original plan for Canberra.

The conflicting intents and broken land allocation make a joke of everything that comes out of ACT planning, who seem to ignore climate, solar orientation, protection from winter winds, traffic flow, visual design, landscape and everything you would think might have been raised as pertinent to their chosen profession.

Instead what we have is pointless lines drawn all over the map, randomly buckling to commercial pressures, Wannabe features culled from magazines, and no quality control or checking on outcomes. In other words the shamble we have now.

Kim Fischer 2:54 pm 23 Nov 15

Thanks for your question. I have always declared my intention to seek preselection for the ALP in my author bio. I am proud to say that over the weekend the rank and file members of the ALP voted for me to be one of the five candidates for Ginninderra.

I expect the party office to make an official announcement about the candidates for each of the electorates some time this week.

Kim Fischer
#BetterBelconnen

Charlotte Harper 2:35 pm 23 Nov 15

She is indeed, as we have also reported today, and all Kim’s articles from now on will include a tagline stating she is a candidate.

Garfield 1:01 pm 23 Nov 15

Hello Kim, I’m guessing that you’re the Kim Fischer the Canberra Times has reported today as having won preselection for the ALP in Ginninderra for next year’s ACT election. I’m not commenting for or against your article, but as an ALP candidate don’t you think the public interest would be best served by mentioning that when talking down the Liberals opposition to the tram?

1 2 3 9

Related Articles

CBR Tweets

Sign up to our newsletter

Top
Copyright © 2017 Riot ACT Holdings Pty Ltd. All rights reserved.
www.the-riotact.com | www.b2bmagazine.com.au | www.thisiscanberra.com

Search across the site