29 October 2021

Renewal plans for historic city laneways released for consultation

| Ian Bushnell
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Verity Lane at Sydney Building

Upgrades to city laneways, such as Verity Lane at the Sydney Building in Civic, will make them more attractive and desirable for visitors. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Plans for upgrades to two Canberra CBD laneways that aim to activate neglected spaces and contribute to the renewal of the historic Sydney Building and Melbourne Building have been released for public consultation.

The design concepts for Verity Lane and Odgers Lane, which service the Sydney Building and Melbourne Building, respectively, include raised islands to protect mature plane trees and provide meeting spaces such as outdoor dining in Odgers Lane, and resurfacing to make them safer and more accessible, plus the addition of decorative lighting.

The plans are the result of an urban design study by Harris Hobbs Landscapes, commissioned by the City Renewal Authority, that commenced in June 2021.

The vision is for the laneways, which are mainly used for waste skip bins and back entrances, to be the site of new businesses, community events, and used by people in much the same way as Melbourne’s bustling iconic narrow spaces.

The laneways project is also integral to revitalising the heritage-listed Sydney Building and Melbourne Building, and the City Renewal Authority is working with their owners, tenants and the community to reinstate them as the premier commercial buildings in the city.

But the first step will be making the laneways more attractive and desirable.

City Renewal Authority chief executive Malcolm Snow said the upgrades to Verity Lane and Odgers Lane are an important renewal opportunity that will benefit building tenants, businesses and the broader community.

“The laneway improvements – which are part of the broader revitalisation strategy for the Sydney and Melbourne buildings precinct – have been designed to help create attractive, small-scale spaces people can enjoy when visiting the city centre,” he said.

“Importantly, the upgrades will bring the essential service infrastructure up to modern standards, which will make the laneways safer, help preserve the buildings, and improve accessibility and connectivity.”

The upgrades include renewing underground services such as sewage, stormwater and drainage pipes; resurfacing both laneways; protecting the existing mature plane trees; new plantings at the entrances; reconfiguring pedestrian and vehicle traffic to activate the spaces; upgrading street lighting; and installing decorative lighting.

Odgers Lane at Melbourne Building

Odgers Lane at the Melbourne Building in Civic, where space will be provided for outdoor dining. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

The City Renewal Authority is proposing that vehicle access be reduced to Verity Lane between 11:30 am and 2:30 pm Monday to Friday, and restricted during special events and other peak/festive periods to encourage pedestrian movement in the laneways.

Mr Snow said community and stakeholder input and ongoing engagement with businesses would be vital to the success of the project.

“We are inviting the community to have a say in helping us refine the designs and inform our proposed laneway usage changes,” he said.

“In particular, we are seeking feedback on proposed laneway vehicle access times, and ideas on how to further activate these interesting spaces.”

Mr Snow said the City Renewal Authority would also be working closely with all businesses in the Sydney Building and Melbourne Building to help refine the designs and minimise the impact of construction.

Work on sewage infrastructure will start in November 2021, while the stormwater, drainage and laneway surface works are planned to commence in April 2022, with all construction in the laneways expected to be finished in late 2022.

Consultation is open until 22 November, 2021. To learn more, visit the ACT Government’s YourSay website.

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I do wonder if it’s best to do it properly once the surrounding works for Light Rail stage 2 have been completed.

It’s going to be pretty chaotic in that zone for a few years.

Sydney and Melbourne buildings: keep the exteriors and bulldoze the middles. Build something useful.
Lane ways would make a good underground carpark entrance.

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