13 August 2023

Nine-storey Braddon apartment proposal overshadowing within rules, says proponent

| Ian Bushnell
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apartment block

An artist’s impression of the apartment block proposed for 90 Northbourne Avenue, Braddon, showing the Elouera Street frontage. Image: Cox Architecture.

Overshadowing concerns from the neighbouring Phoenix Apartments in Braddon have not altered plans for a nine-storey mixed-use development that will add a further 105 apartments to the Northbourne corridor.

Canberra-based property group Liebke and Co have lodged a development application for the project to be built on a 2090 square metre rectangular site at 90 Northbourne Avenue in Braddon (Block 1 Section 19).

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The pre-DA consultation report said the loss of sunlight was the main concern from residents in 38 north-facing units in the Phoenix Apartments, with many wanting the developer to reconsider the building height or design.

The proponent acknowledges that the building will reduce the amount of sunlight the Phoenix will receive, especially within the winter months, but believes the proposal is still within the planning rules, saying the affected in the adjoining block will receive more than two hours of direct sunlight between 9 am and 4 pm for many days of the year, as required.

The DA says this is considered reasonable given the short five-metre setback northern boundary and the constrained nature of the subject block.

Any reduction in building height or change to the design redesigns will affect the viability of the project, given the purchase value of the site and its small size, the DA prepared by Purdon Planning says.

aerial view of apartments

An aerial view of the site showing the Phoenix Apartments to the south. Photo: Purdon Planning.

But the proponent has made some changes as a result of consultation including screening in the form of a fixed louvre system added to the southern elevation to help ease privacy concerns, slightly revising the facade including changes to the ground floor and balcony design, redesigning of the courtyard walls and reconfiguring the rooftop courtyards.

Before consultation, the proponent made significant changes at the behest of the National Capital Design review panel.

The housing mix includes 24 studio, 18 one-bedroom, 29 two-bedroom and 29 three-bedroom apartments with balconies or winter gardens, including five penthouses on the top floor, and five SOHO units with courtyards facing Northbourne Avenue.

The plans show four ground-floor commercial units on the Elouera Street side, including one on the corner with Mort Street that will extend to the first floor. These are intended to be a mix of retail to activate the side of the development.

Resident amenities include a rooftop garden multifunction community space on the second floor.

Three levels of basement parking are proposed, including a minimum of 122 car spaces, based on the expectation that light rail and walking will be an option and on-street spaces will be available for the proposed shops.

There will also be storage cages and commercial end-of-trip bicycle facilities.

The car park entry will be from Elouera Street and the exit will be a left-only turn onto Northbourne Avenue.

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The DA says six trees are to be removed but replaced and extensive landscaping is proposed to reinvigorate the streetscape, particularly Elouera Street, and the SOHO courtyards will have trees.

Sustainability features include electric vehicle charging facilities; water retention and recycling systems; apartment designs that maximise solar efficiency and cross ventilation; high standards of insulation and glazing; water-efficient fixtures; and energy-efficient lighting.

Comment on the development application is open until 25 August.

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Incidental Tourist8:59 pm 15 Aug 23

Canberra needs walking malls like many European cities. So the principle – shops in the ground with offices/residencies above belongs to central selected locations like Northbourne Avenue. However we need better architectural solutions than glass/concrete boxes filled in with coffin size apartments. I’d like to see more innovative architecture with spacious family friendly luxury apartments people would desire to move in. Also the spread of apartments should have limits. We own the whole continent. Surely we deserve living in large detached houses in a sustainable etiological friendly way.

Gregg Heldon12:10 pm 15 Aug 23

The problem with people who believe in the vertical city concept is that they will not recognise that not everyone wants Canberra to be like that or that it doesn’t suit everyone for their dwelling to be on a fifth floor of an apartment block.
If you want to live in a fifth floor apartment, within a 20 minute walk of a CBD, great. Go for it. Be happy. But please don’t try and force your lifestyle choices on everyone else.
Some people still need 600 sq m blocks for their 3 or 4 kids to play in. Some people need a three or four car garage because they have grown up kids who have cars and still live at home. Some people love cars and driving. Some people want a yard for their dogs to run around in.
Some special needs people can’t live in apartment blocks. Wheelchair user are not exactly suited to apartment blocks.
And I would presume that people who suffer from claustrophobia would be better suited to free standing home living than apartment living. I know I can feel closed in, in our town house complex, and we live on the edge of the complex.
Apartment living would no doubt has its benefits for some people but not for everyone.

Nick Stevens6:56 am 15 Aug 23

Nine storey’s is fairly average for a site near town, Northbourne should have been a boulevard of tall slender apartment buildings upwards of 30 storey’s giving the town a critical mass of population to breathe a little life in the old girl. Sooner or later the mentality of urban sprawl will be realised as unsustainable, and higher inner city density, being the much better option.

If the plan is not viable, why did they buy the block at the price? It sound like it’s their problem and not one for the Canberra community to solve.

It is stunningly stupid to continue to build apartments with commercial space at the base, given the huge amount of empty commercial space in Canberra since covid. Both office and retail space is abundant in Canberra and often empty for long periods of time, even in the most vibrant areas.

All of these empty commercial units are not friendly places to walk past or live near, whilst empty buildings could be adapted and better used as social housing or community places. It is crazy to have lots of vacant or half-used places at the same time as there is massive homelessness.

Richard Taylor12:51 pm 14 Aug 23

The design also proposes to remove 22 trees, not six, and will replace them with far fewer trees of species that are not capable of growing as tall as the trees that are being removed.

And the replacement trees will not be the same size, as this is considered too expensive. There will be much less tree cover in a time of climate heating and increasingly hard impermeable surfaces in this ‘bush’ capital. The bush is disappearing, whilst the concrete, asphalt and glass is growing. Strange way to deal with dangerously hot summers, so what are the Greens doing? Nothing.

Richard Taylor12:45 pm 14 Aug 23

“the affected in the adjoining block will receive more than two hours of direct sunlight between 9 am and 4 pm for many days of the year, as required.”

This sentence is inaccurate reporting. The “for many days of the year” part is interpretation on the part of the developer. The rule requires that 2 hours of daytime sunlight is maintained to all habitable rooms in all dwellings on adjacent blocks, and ACT government advice received by residents of the Phoenix states that the rule applies throughout the year.

The proposed design violates this rule for most of the year – there are some apartments on lower floors of the Phoenix that will be overshadowed so excessively that they will receive zero direct sunlight for over 6 months of the year (demonstrated by solar studies on the spring and autumn equinoxes and winter solstice as supplied by the developer).

The “fixed louvre system” proposed by the developer is also positively dystopian and completely blocks the windows and balconies of some of the south-facing apartments in the new building so that residents will be effectively unable to see out of their homes at all.

The NCDRP also explicitly advised the developer to reconsider the building height and setback to reduce overshadowing and improve privacy along the southern boundary, advice that they have refused to follow because of the “purchase value of the land”. The ACT planning system does not consider how much the developer chose to pay for a block of land that is too small for the building they are proposing, only the outcomes under the development codes, so the purchase value is completely irrelevant.

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