4 June 2020

QIC unveils plans for smaller development on key city site

| Ian Bushnell
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The proposed development

Still substantial: an artist’s impression of the development from Cooyong Street, looking south-west. Images: Purdon Planning.

The owners of the Canberra Centre have unveiled plans for a much smaller development on Section 96 in the city that nonetheless includes five towers on a single-storey podium.

Queensland Investment Corporation is preparing to lodge an application to amend its previously approved development application for the site, currently a surface car park and the source of some angst over the amount of time it has lain idle.

The state-owned investment company has been criticised for taking so long to develop the prime site bound by Cooyong Street, Scotts Crossing, Narellan Street and Genge Street, leading to accusations of ‘land banking’.

QIC flagged that it would be scaling back its approved 2017 proposal last year when it lodged new plans for a three-level basement car park instead of five.

Proposed development looking south-east

The proposed development looking south-east.

At the time it said the above-ground development would be about 10,685 square metres less than the currently approved DA.

The 2017 proposal was for a 10-storey office tower, a 12-storey hotel tower and 12-storeys of apartments.

QIC foreshadowed an amended DA that would include a mix of retail and office space, a boutique hotel, commercial services and a retirement living complex on the site, with building heights remaining about the same as before.

The new plans do not mention retirement living or office space. They retain the shops, services, hotel, and serviced apartments, and add a landscaped open spaces complex.

Pedestrian-focused precinct

QIC says the development will be a new vibrant pedestrian-focused city precinct.

They also include closure of Scotts Crossing and Narellan Street to through-traffic to create a larger landscaped pedestrian precinct.

Purdon Planning says the proposed development will revitalise the city centre consistent with Government policy, increase mixed-use development, and provide more commercial accommodation.

It also says there will be boutique retailing at ground level with an emphasis on market-style food and a new piazza and landscaped pedestrian spaces along Narellan Street, Scotts Crossing and Cooyong Street.

The development will create a new vibrant pedestrian-focused city precinct, and will support other businesses in the local area, Purdon says.

Section 96 carpark

Section 96 is currently a car park.

Last year QIC said it still planned to construct a slip lane on Cooyong Street between Scotts Crossing and Genge Street, and an access ramp to existing car parks in Scotts Crossing, which would be be ‘pedestrianised’ between Cooyong and Bunda Streets. New traffic lights were planned for the intersection of Cooyong and Torrens streets.

It said the number of spaces in the basement car park, with access via Cooyong and Narellan Streets, would be 713, instead of 1118, plus bicycle and motorbike spaces, although QIC said that it had built 197 spaces on Section 97 in 2012 and there would be excess parking within the Canberra Centre.

Last year QIC said changes in the struggling retail industry and the residential and office markets had prompted it to revise its plans, but the deteriorating economy during the COVID-19 crisis may have forced it to make further changes.

The proposed development will be considered by the National Capital Design Review Panel before going to the planning authority.

A fly-through video of the proposed development has been prepared.

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