Woden’s landmark but mothballed Lovett Tower will be refurbished to accommodate a mix of uses including a total of 300 serviced apartments and smaller units for students under a proposal from its owner Brite Developments.
The 26-storey, 93-metre tall Lovett Tower was Canberra’s tallest building until Geocon’s High Society recently eclipsed it in Belconnen.
Lovett Tower has previously been occupied by Commonwealth government departments including Veterans’ Affairs, Environment, and Prime Minister and Cabinet.
But Brite says on its pre-DA website outlining its plans that the building has endured high vacancy rates during the past five years, with government tenants attracted to new purpose-built facilities at other locations.
With demand for large-scale office tenancies in Woden diminishing, Brite wants to adapt the 46-year-old building on the edge of Woden Town Square to a mix of new uses including commercial, retail and residential.
This will also mean more parking than the limited basement area of only 17 spaces.
Brite intends to retain and expand retail tenancies at ground level and add commercial space at the mezzanine level.
It plans 184 commercial serviced apartments at mid to high levels of the building, including 50 at “premium” or luxury standard, as well as 116 units for students, with the new CIT being built on the current interchange in mind.
”With the site for the new CIT campus within close proximity to Lovett Tower, the proposed student accommodation provides the opportunity to contribute to the range and diversity of housing within the town centre,” Brite says.
It says the physical relationship between Lovett Tower and the town square will be improved by providing a lobby entrance to the east of the building, facing the square, with the addition of new awnings to cover pedestrian walkways around three sides of the building.
The existing basement parking spaces will be retained for loading and building services, but Brite plans to retrofit five parking levels within the building to provide 86 additional car spaces.
It says unroofed access ramps will be constructed on the western side of the building, away from the town square, extending beyond the building’s existing footprint.
This will require approval for a lease variation and the purchase of additional land over an existing services corridor.
Brite also plans to relocate a fire booster cupboard to allow firefighters direct access to Lovett Tower from Keltie Street, and the relocation of waste collection facilities to comply with current requirements.
Woden Valley Community Council president Fiona Carrick said more information was needed to assess the proposal properly, but the council is concerned about the continued loss of jobs in the Town Centre and the proliferation of residential apartments in Woden’s core area.
”While we support the urban infill policy, with over 25 residential towers earmarked in the town centre to date, it is not clear that residential apartments on the perimeter of the town square are the best option because residents often complain about music,” she said.
Ms Carrick said the ACT Government’s 2019 Entertainment Action Plan noted the need to designate specific areas and precincts in the ACT as entertainment zones, but in Woden, over-development was putting at risk opportunities to create an active hub in the heart of Woden.
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She welcomed the extra retail space and the planned student accommodation but the proposal appeared to provide very small rooms.
Ms Carrick said the parking proposal only reinforced the need for a parking plan in the Town Centre.
”Parking should be fed out to the major surrounding roads so the roads internal to the Town Centre are shared for walking and cycling around active fronts,” she said.
”Using four or five floors of residents’ parking at the lower end of a building does not bring activity to the Town Square for the whole community.”
Community consultation will run between Friday, 29 January until Friday, 12 February, with drop-in sessions in the Lovett Tower ground floor lobby at 11:30 am and 2:30 pm on 3 February and 4:00 pm and 6:30 pm on 10 February.