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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.

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Mix it up: Why mixed-use developments are key to Canberra’s future
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rommeldog56 10:56 am 26 Jan 16

Charlotte Harper said :

Hi rommeldog56, I’m going to forward the questions you’ve listed there to the appropriate sitting MLA, because they have the access and resources to answer them. I’ll publish their responses here when I receive them.

Re Kim, I can say with confidence that her suggestion to email her is not an attempt to hide public discussion. She’s answered the questions as best she can at this time and is taking the feedback on board.

We’re not going to publish any further comments that criticise her for not responding here. It’s time to move on, I reckon.

See post #120. No response from the ACT Labor/Greens Government to the questions/issues raised in this thread..

Whilst I acknowledge the “time to move on” position, a “no response” reinforces the non accountability and apparent arrogance of this ACT Greens/Labor Government, to voters.

rommeldog56 7:25 am 21 Dec 15

Kim Fischer – or any sitting MLA : is there any response to the questions raised in post 118 please – and to the other unanswered questions in this thread such as 10, 11 & 12 ? Just saying to email u privately re questions as you said in post # 89 isnt a response at all. Rather, its just an attempt to hide public discussion from those who don’t have answers.

There are also many excellent points raised by poster KentFitch in this thread that – if the ACT Gov’t really is seeking to convert ACT voters/ratepayers to their tram plan, need to be addressed in a way that isn’t a simple pre-scripted slogan.

    Charlotte Harper 12:39 pm 21 Dec 15

    Hi rommeldog56, I’m going to forward the questions you’ve listed there to the appropriate sitting MLA, because they have the access and resources to answer them. I’ll publish their responses here when I receive them.

    Re Kim, I can say with confidence that her suggestion to email her is not an attempt to hide public discussion. She’s answered the questions as best she can at this time and is taking the feedback on board.

    We’re not going to publish any further comments that criticise her for not responding here. It’s time to move on, I reckon.

rommeldog56 7:09 am 21 Dec 15

JC said :

The report doesn’t say that. The report says with increased development along the tram route congestion will increase. The development is happening tram or no tram. What the same report does say with the tram the level of congestion will be less compared to no tram.

See post 118 – which is the way I read the EIS too.

KentFitch 2:07 pm 18 Dec 15

JC said :

rommeldog56 said :

james_gibbo said :

It typically costs about $50,000 to provide infrastructure to a new lot. The land, given how much of it we have, is essentially free in a free market situation. So you’re looking at $50,000 for a third of an acre lot if the government doesn’t meddle in things.

Canberra should be moving towards a lower density, not densifying. In 1885 in Queensland they made it state law that the minimum lot size was 400 square meters. Now we have cars and far more efficient transport, we could make half an acre the minimum. How great it would it be for families to have a big backyard again for an affordable price? Cities like Houston show the way forward. The average price for a new 250 square metre new home in Houston is $200,000. This is because state law forbids restrictive zoning.

One of the major reasons building in the ACT is so expensive now is because of the ACT Govt’s policy of drip feeding land releases – not keeping up with demand :

http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/moncrieff-housing-blocks-sold-in-three-minutes-20151207-glhzhp.html

One of the things that beggers belief to me is the ongoing push to densify even the outer suburbs – such as Moncrieff. If the Tram – which is supposed to solve the Gunners poor transport planning issues – only goes from Gunners CBD to Civic, there will be more congestion created between outlying suburbs (such as Moncrieff) and where the tram runs. And if the tram wont take u where u want to go – u will have to drive – again increasing congestion. But then again, the Govt’s own Environmental Impact Statement on the tram forewarns of that increase in congestion caused by the tram, so people buying in these Gunners suburbs must know what they are in for.

The report doesn’t say that. The report says with increased development along the tram route congestion will increase. The development is happening tram or no tram. What the same report does say with the tram the level of congestion will be less compared to no tram.

JC, the bizarre thing is that the EIS actually does say congestion in 2021 with the tram is worse than 2021 without the tram, with population increases happening in both cases (but accelerated with the tram). This had me flummoxed, but the reason is revealed by the intersection delay times for these respective cases in the tables in Volume 3, Part 5, Appendix B, labelled “project 2021” and “base 2021” respectively. These tables contain “errors” favouring the tram case as TAMS and EPD notes in their response to the EIS as described here: http://www.projectcomputing.com/resources/cacs/faq.html#eisapend but that’s another story – without the benefit of these “errors”, the increased congestion resulting from the tram project is flabbergasting).

Even not including the effect of these errors, a commute car journey roundtrip, Gung-Civic-Gung is modelled by Capital Metro as taking over 3 minutes longer if the tram is built (even when extra road lane duplication is performed if the tram is built, but not performed otherwise).

Average combined AM and PM peak period vehicle speed over the road network around the proposed route (not just traffic on the direct route) decreases from 27.8 km/hr without light-rail to 23.1 km/hr with light-rail (EIS Volume 3, Part 5, Table 4.2, page 38).

I agree this is remarkable, but I guess when you add 10 new sets of lights and bugger the signal phasing by giving priority to the tram, this is what happens.

wildturkeycanoe 5:54 am 18 Dec 15

KentFitch said :

dungfungus said :

Charlotte Harper said :

Here’s part of the Government’s press release response to that story/photograph:

The Canberra Liberals have again misled Canberrans on the facts of light rail and its impact on Northbourne Avenue, Minister for Capital Metro Simon Corbell said today.


.

And ACT Labor’s artists impressions of wireless trams travelling at supersonic speed up Northbourne Avenue are not misleading?
Give me a break!

In search of the hipster hangouts alluded to in the ABC “Fasttrack” news special, and some “before and after” shots of the Gold Coast tram route, and some also “packet -v- product” comparisons, which make you wonder about the brief given to the artists:

http://www.projectcomputing.com/resources/cacs/GCLR.html

I think these before and after pics need to be put up on billboards all over Canberra, so residents can see what the outcome will actually look like when Cantram is up and running. Not that it’ll make an iota of difference, Govco is hell bent on doing it even if all of CBR is opposed, because we “need” it to “grow up”.

wildturkeycanoe 6:41 am 17 Dec 15

rubaiyat said :

Some of Australia’s worst salination and erosion is happening around the ACT.

All the more sand for some people to stick their heads in.

I believe the production of rice and other crops in areas such as Leeton and Griffith, where there is little available water, has a big impact on erosion in some places but not the A.C.T. They rely on water flows from the Murrumbidgee River, which originates as we know from around these parts. Googong Dam and the Cotter no doubt play a role in supplying some of this water, but most comes from Blowering Dam near Tumut and look what that irrigation has done for erosion in the Tumut River.
Why do we insist on planting crops usually grown in flooded fields, but here in an arid, dry area without any reliable water source nearby? Of course erosion through the channeling of water through existing water courses will damage the environment and flooding the open plains with it all raises salinity levels to almost unsustainable levels. But not in Canberra, this is happening out west. I couldn’t find any issues with Canberra’s saltiness [except for in the people].
What has this to do with densification of the A.C.T though?

JC 8:02 pm 16 Dec 15

rommeldog56 said :

james_gibbo said :

It typically costs about $50,000 to provide infrastructure to a new lot. The land, given how much of it we have, is essentially free in a free market situation. So you’re looking at $50,000 for a third of an acre lot if the government doesn’t meddle in things.

Canberra should be moving towards a lower density, not densifying. In 1885 in Queensland they made it state law that the minimum lot size was 400 square meters. Now we have cars and far more efficient transport, we could make half an acre the minimum. How great it would it be for families to have a big backyard again for an affordable price? Cities like Houston show the way forward. The average price for a new 250 square metre new home in Houston is $200,000. This is because state law forbids restrictive zoning.

One of the major reasons building in the ACT is so expensive now is because of the ACT Govt’s policy of drip feeding land releases – not keeping up with demand :

http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/moncrieff-housing-blocks-sold-in-three-minutes-20151207-glhzhp.html

One of the things that beggers belief to me is the ongoing push to densify even the outer suburbs – such as Moncrieff. If the Tram – which is supposed to solve the Gunners poor transport planning issues – only goes from Gunners CBD to Civic, there will be more congestion created between outlying suburbs (such as Moncrieff) and where the tram runs. And if the tram wont take u where u want to go – u will have to drive – again increasing congestion. But then again, the Govt’s own Environmental Impact Statement on the tram forewarns of that increase in congestion caused by the tram, so people buying in these Gunners suburbs must know what they are in for.

The report doesn’t say that. The report says with increased development along the tram route congestion will increase. The development is happening tram or no tram. What the same report does say with the tram the level of congestion will be less compared to no tram.

Acton 1:11 pm 16 Dec 15

rubaiyat said :

Some reading matter for those who read:

http://world.time.com/2012/12/14/what-if-the-worlds-soil-runs-out/

http://www.aginnovators.org.au/initiatives/sustainability/information-papers/soil-conservation

http://www.grahamandrews.com/soils_and_dust.html

Some of Australia’s worst salination and erosion is happening around the ACT.

All the more sand for some people to stick their heads in.

I read. And I think. From your: http://world.time.com/2012/12/14/what-if-the-worlds-soil-runs-out/

“A rough calculation of current rates of soil degradation suggests we have about 60 years of topsoil left.”
“degraded soil will mean that we will produce 30% less food over the next 20-50 years…against a background of projected demand requiring us to grow 50% more food.”
“This issue is already causing conflicts in India, China, Pakistan and the Middle East and before climate change and food security really hit, the next wars are likely to be fought over unsustainable irrigation.”
“a staggering paper was published recently indicating that nearly half of the sea level rise since 1960 is due to irrigation water flowing straight past the crops and washing out to sea.”
“Obesity in the US cost 150 billion dollars – 20% of the health budget – in 2008, the latest figures available, and this huge cost will rise as the broken food system takes its toll.”

Conclusions:
1. Soil scientists, jealous of all the attention climate scientists are getting, want a bit of the international conference/grant action by making their own neo-Malthusian claims.
2. Soil erosion is a higher priority than climate change because the impact is more immediate, more certain and more dire.
3. So we can stop worrying about climate change because before that happens we’ll run out of food, or be nuked, or drown from rising sea levels, or be too fat to care.

But I think I’ve read it all before:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Famine_1975!_America%27s_Decision:_Who_Will_Survive%3F

rommeldog56 10:50 pm 15 Dec 15

james_gibbo said :

It typically costs about $50,000 to provide infrastructure to a new lot. The land, given how much of it we have, is essentially free in a free market situation. So you’re looking at $50,000 for a third of an acre lot if the government doesn’t meddle in things.

Canberra should be moving towards a lower density, not densifying. In 1885 in Queensland they made it state law that the minimum lot size was 400 square meters. Now we have cars and far more efficient transport, we could make half an acre the minimum. How great it would it be for families to have a big backyard again for an affordable price? Cities like Houston show the way forward. The average price for a new 250 square metre new home in Houston is $200,000. This is because state law forbids restrictive zoning.

One of the major reasons building in the ACT is so expensive now is because of the ACT Govt’s policy of drip feeding land releases – not keeping up with demand :

http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/moncrieff-housing-blocks-sold-in-three-minutes-20151207-glhzhp.html

One of the things that beggers belief to me is the ongoing push to densify even the outer suburbs – such as Moncrieff. If the Tram – which is supposed to solve the Gunners poor transport planning issues – only goes from Gunners CBD to Civic, there will be more congestion created between outlying suburbs (such as Moncrieff) and where the tram runs. And if the tram wont take u where u want to go – u will have to drive – again increasing congestion. But then again, the Govt’s own Environmental Impact Statement on the tram forewarns of that increase in congestion caused by the tram, so people buying in these Gunners suburbs must know what they are in for.

dungfungus 5:49 pm 15 Dec 15

KentFitch said :

dungfungus said :

Charlotte Harper said :

Here’s part of the Government’s press release response to that story/photograph:

The Canberra Liberals have again misled Canberrans on the facts of light rail and its impact on Northbourne Avenue, Minister for Capital Metro Simon Corbell said today.


.

And ACT Labor’s artists impressions of wireless trams travelling at supersonic speed up Northbourne Avenue are not misleading?
Give me a break!

In search of the hipster hangouts alluded to in the ABC “Fasttrack” news special, and some “before and after” shots of the Gold Coast tram route, and some also “packet -v- product” comparisons, which make you wonder about the brief given to the artists:

http://www.projectcomputing.com/resources/cacs/GCLR.html

What a great post and very revealing before and after pics via the link.
I think Verdelle Smith can summarize what is about to happen (she isn’t a transit hipster. by the way):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RljEFI0up9U

KentFitch 12:48 pm 15 Dec 15

dungfungus said :

Charlotte Harper said :

Here’s part of the Government’s press release response to that story/photograph:

The Canberra Liberals have again misled Canberrans on the facts of light rail and its impact on Northbourne Avenue, Minister for Capital Metro Simon Corbell said today.


.

And ACT Labor’s artists impressions of wireless trams travelling at supersonic speed up Northbourne Avenue are not misleading?
Give me a break!

In search of the hipster hangouts alluded to in the ABC “Fasttrack” news special, and some “before and after” shots of the Gold Coast tram route, and some also “packet -v- product” comparisons, which make you wonder about the brief given to the artists:

http://www.projectcomputing.com/resources/cacs/GCLR.html

dungfungus 11:49 am 15 Dec 15

Charlotte Harper said :

Here’s part of the Government’s press release response to that story/photograph:

The Canberra Liberals have again misled Canberrans on the facts of light rail and its impact on Northbourne Avenue, Minister for Capital Metro Simon Corbell said today.

“The Canberra Liberals are misleading Canberrans with this cynical attempt to imply that Northbourne Avenue will look like a highway, which just simply isn’t the case,” Mr Corbell said.

The Capital Metro reference design indicates that light rail tracks will occupy about 7 metres of Northbourne Avenue’s total 27 metre width, leaving 10 metres on either side for landscaping and trees.

The government expects that the semi-mature Eucalyptus Mannifera will be approximately 4-5 metres high when first planted during the construction phase of Capital Metro.

“The Canberra Liberals’ ill-informed artists’ impression of light rail on Northbourne is misleading and does not represent what Northbourne Avenue will look like once light rail is built,” Mr Corbell said.

“The fact is there will be 4-5 metre high semi-mature Eucalyptus Mannifera with the light rail tracks taking up less than one third of the total width of the median.”

The ACT Government has announced that it will replace aging trees along Northbourne Avenue with 1000 additional trees during the construction phase of Capital Metro stage one.

“The ACT Government has always been clear that Northbourne Avenue will retain its boulevard character, with 1000 more trees once light rail has been built than there is today,” Mr Corbell said.

Between 2010 and 2014 the number of trees on the Northbourne Avenue and Federal Highway median of the light rail corridor fell from 802 to just 484 through failing health, storm damage and removal of dead and dangerous trees. A 2014 assessment of the trees in the corridor found only 59% of the remaining trees were healthy.

And ACT Labor’s artists impressions of wireless trams travelling at supersonic speed up Northbourne Avenue are not misleading?
Give me a break!

dungfungus 11:46 am 15 Dec 15

rommeldog56 said :

The ACT Liberals view of what Northborne Ave will look like post the tram :

http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/what-would-northbourne-avenue-look-like-without-trees-20151210-gll2id.html

Given it’s from the ACT Liberals and so presumably likely to be a worst case scenario (?), still not that attractive I would think.

I understand that Corbell or Barr have criticised the artists impression.

Enjoy !

Whatever is put down the median strip on Northbourne (tram,bus or monorail) will require excavation and relocation of the underground services which are still unknown at this stage.
This alone will cost hundreds of millions of dollars and cause unimaginable chaos, so neither modes are viable.
Canberra’s leaders want us to have that “big Euro-city vibe” and road traffic congestion, albeit for a couple of hours a day only, is part and parcel of that.

rommeldog56 6:10 pm 14 Dec 15

The ACT Liberals view of what Northborne Ave will look like post the tram :

http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/what-would-northbourne-avenue-look-like-without-trees-20151210-gll2id.html

Given it’s from the ACT Liberals and so presumably likely to be a worst case scenario (?), still not that attractive I would think. I understand that Corbell or Barr have criticised the artists impression.

Enjoy !

    Charlotte Harper 10:48 am 15 Dec 15

    Here’s part of the Government’s press release response to that story/photograph:

    The Canberra Liberals have again misled Canberrans on the facts of light rail and its impact on Northbourne Avenue, Minister for Capital Metro Simon Corbell said today.

    “The Canberra Liberals are misleading Canberrans with this cynical attempt to imply that Northbourne Avenue will look like a highway, which just simply isn’t the case,” Mr Corbell said.

    The Capital Metro reference design indicates that light rail tracks will occupy about 7 metres of Northbourne Avenue’s total 27 metre width, leaving 10 metres on either side for landscaping and trees.

    The government expects that the semi-mature Eucalyptus Mannifera will be approximately 4-5 metres high when first planted during the construction phase of Capital Metro.

    “The Canberra Liberals’ ill-informed artists’ impression of light rail on Northbourne is misleading and does not represent what Northbourne Avenue will look like once light rail is built,” Mr Corbell said.

    “The fact is there will be 4-5 metre high semi-mature Eucalyptus Mannifera with the light rail tracks taking up less than one third of the total width of the median.”

    The ACT Government has announced that it will replace aging trees along Northbourne Avenue with 1000 additional trees during the construction phase of Capital Metro stage one.

    “The ACT Government has always been clear that Northbourne Avenue will retain its boulevard character, with 1000 more trees once light rail has been built than there is today,” Mr Corbell said.

    Between 2010 and 2014 the number of trees on the Northbourne Avenue and Federal Highway median of the light rail corridor fell from 802 to just 484 through failing health, storm damage and removal of dead and dangerous trees. A 2014 assessment of the trees in the corridor found only 59% of the remaining trees were healthy.

james_gibbo 6:19 pm 09 Dec 15

miz said :

It is unbelievable that so much arable land in Australia IS actually being built on or permanently damaged through a lack of control over corporate interests (mostly foreign, i.e. not in the national interest who seem to be able to frack and mine with impunity). It is not unrelated to be concerned about restricting block sizes, which basically prevents people from growing their own, having chooks etc. You need access to water to grow good food and the size of the continent is irrelevant as most of it is not arable or is marginal (i.e. needing large subsidies). In other words, there is a burgeoning class issue at an elemental level re access to and control over fresh food.

Indeed. We have governments of both persuasions quite insistent on cramming low and medium income earners into Soviet-style apartment housing, despite the fact they could easily live in detached homes on big blocks if not for planning regulations driving up the cost of them.

rubaiyat 10:53 am 09 Dec 15

Some reading matter for those who read:

http://world.time.com/2012/12/14/what-if-the-worlds-soil-runs-out/

http://www.aginnovators.org.au/initiatives/sustainability/information-papers/soil-conservation

http://www.grahamandrews.com/soils_and_dust.html

Some of Australia’s worst salination and erosion is happening around the ACT.

All the more sand for some people to stick their heads in.

6

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