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Revamped Dickson DA – mediocre at best

By Paul Costigan - 7 March 2016 10

Dickson-antill

I don’t think the residents will be holding celebrations about what is being proposed for the new supermarket complex here in downtown Dickson.

Dickson is the main commercial/shopping hub for the inner north of Canberra and most residents would agree that it is overdue for a revamp. We know too well what the problems are. There is much to love about our shopping centre and much that could be done to see it enhanced to be even better.

New exciting architectural and landscape solutions would definitely be welcomed. It is just that the revamped development application (DA) that is now in the pipeline does little of this. The revamped proposal for the Dickson shops is mediocre at best. As one commentator put it – they have moved from getting an F (Failure) to maybe now receiving a D (Disappointing).

The original policy of the Jon Stanhope government, now ignored, was to bring in new competitors to Canberra’s supermarket arena. The concept was innovative but relied on the bureaucracy getting off their butts to encourage new players into the supermarket field. The revamped proposal does not do any of this.

More shops are always to be welcomed – but what about something new and something different?

Dickson-cnr-nr-wollies

(proposed view looking west from in front of the library – Wollies to the left)

Dickson-nr-library-antill

(View looking south-west from west bound lane of Antill St)

This whole sorry affair started when the infamous LDA/directorate looked out their windows here in Dickson and realised that there were ways of making money from sales of government land in around the centre, including the nearby Dickson Parklands.

The reality is that Dickson, as with all of Canberra, is subject to ad hoc planning. One part of this is the economic development agency that has a history of not being able to empathise with the aspirations of the Canberra electorate. The other is the mysterious and opaque planning authority/directorate (see my regular post next Wednesday).

If the residents knew a decade ago what we have since learnt about the LDA/directorate’s smoke and mirror games, there may have been a chance that what we are now dealing with here in Dickson may have been something to be celebrated. It isn’t!

Following the rejection mid last year of the first development application (DA) for a new building, the joint developers have delivered not a new DA but one that is a revamp of the former. As part of the process to tick the boxes, the Dickson Residents Group attended a presentation the other night by six uniformly dressed men from the joint partners. The presentation was carried out professionally and in a friendly manner. We gave the blokes an A for a smooth presentation.

The developers are doing their best to match the requirements of the planning regimes overseen by both the LDA/directorate and the ACTPLA/planning directorate.

Therein lie the problems. The planning requirements are not about innovations. They are definitely not about putting into place a new architectural and landscape vision for precincts such as Dickson.

The developers’ glossy presentations present a wonderful example of a new building in the universal CAD-Modern style. The building could be anywhere.

It has little relevance to the Canberra environment, is of limited aesthetic value and will do near to nothing to address the complex climate change issues that impact on residents. There’s a few token trees squeezed onto the perimeter – the whole thing will increase the heat island effects – and there is no double glazing, solar and breezeways.

The problem is that other developers will use this as the benchmark for future structures in and around the Dickson centre. And given the experience here, one wonders what will be presented for the future of Northbourne Ave.

For the residents who have not expired through this long and costly process, they are now to deal with the worrying revamped plans to plonk a carpark onto the Dickson Parklands corner.

This yet to be approved plan involves the removal a few trees. This is far better than previously whereby many trees were to go.

The obvious concern, at least to people who cherish trees, is how many of the remaining trees will suffer from the imposed environment around them being hard surfaces (heat island) and parked cars?

And with this unsatisfactory attempt at a parking solution – one wonders just who is going to park there and walk across the busy street to get back to the shops when they can go elsewhere well away from the construction site and all its noise, trucks and parked builders’ utes?

More worrying, and based on previous experiences, the agencies will use this intrusion onto the precious green space to manufacture some twisted logic for other areas of the parklands and community facilities to be used for private developments.

P1160996

(image above is of the car park to be removed for the new building)

The next few years are going to be very tough for the traders in the Dickson precinct. Shops have already started to close as people have started to shop elsewhere. The LDA/directorate failed completely to have any forward plan in place to cope with the loss of the main parking areas during the next two to three years of construction.

The operation of how the agencies are handling the ‘urban renewal’ of Dickson is worthy of serious study. Future leaders and researchers will identify this as a case study in questionable governance and a twisted use of the democratic processes. Future generations will look back and wonder just how this was allowed to happen.

Given the agreement by residents that the Dickson shops could be changed for the better, it is a real shame that the revamped proposal, which is most likely to meet the ACTPLA’s limited requirements, is simply mediocre at best.

It is a shame that the agencies involved were not capable of mature behaviour and to have worked honestly with locals to deliver something we could have celebrated.

Mediocre is the most polite word we are using to sum up the outcome of this painful exercise to change the Dickson shops. What a shame!

What’s Your opinion?


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10 Responses to
Revamped Dickson DA – mediocre at best
1
gooterz 9:34 am
07 Mar 16
#

Where will China town move too?

2
Paul Costigan 10:44 am
07 Mar 16
#

About China Town in Dickson?

which is the precinct centred on Woolley Street in Dickson

This was talked about recently as ‘China Town’ is very much ready for a revamp. It has been several decades since a former ACT Government (under Rosemary Follett) invested in the precinct to make it look like a china town. Not much has been done since.

With all the developments around the supermarket and several apartments blocks about to happen – it would be timely for the government to revisit China Town and do something innovative to make it more attractive – and do something about the parking.

So to answer the question – as far as we know – nothing is happening to China Town for the moment.

3
Nilrem 11:53 am
07 Mar 16
#

Dickson has always been a place to avoid, because of its mediocrity. Looks like it’s going to get even worse.

4
rubaiyat 2:25 pm
07 Mar 16
#

When they build that huge wall of mediocrity along the northern side of Dickson we can look forward to everything behind it being plunged into cold windy darkness.

The Canberra way!

There is a reason why Canberrans can not see the bleeding obvious, it is because they suffer from “Won’t look!”.

5
Nilrem 2:50 pm
07 Mar 16
#

rubaiyat said :

When they build that huge wall of mediocrity along the northern side of Dickson we can look forward to everything behind it being plunged into cold windy darkness.

The Canberra way!

There is a reason why Canberrans can not see the bleeding obvious, it is because they suffer from “Won’t look!”.

I hadn’t thought of that. Terrible solar impact. In winter, the shops really are going to feel like a run-down Pommy housing estate. Well planned! Not.

6
Paul Costigan 6:28 pm
07 Mar 16
#

A footnote to this story – and there are many more

One amazing aspect of this is the tender as put out by the LDA/directorate insisted that the development included a full supermarket (what choice there?) and Aldi – and the tower of apartments.

So the LDA/directorate ensured that there was no green space on this block and that we ended up with something that towers over the rest.

And – how many developers submitted a tender? ONE. I think that says it all about what the other possible developers thought of the tender process – or was that they way it was always meant to be?

There are many stories around this one – great for future researchers on governance.

7
rubaiyat 6:49 pm
07 Mar 16
#

Paul Costigan said :

A footnote to this story – and there are many more

One amazing aspect of this is the tender as put out by the LDA/directorate insisted that the development included a full supermarket (what choice there?) and Aldi – and the tower of apartments.

So the LDA/directorate ensured that there was no green space on this block and that we ended up with something that towers over the rest.

And – how many developers submitted a tender? ONE. I think that says it all about what the other possible developers thought of the tender process – or was that they way it was always meant to be?

There are many stories around this one – great for future researchers on governance.

One particular project we were set as architecture students sticks in my mind.

It was an inner city development on a restricted block. The brief detailed a long list of things that had to be included, which we rapidly worked out totally filled the block. Mysteriously one of the students managed to also achieve the requisite open space in the brief.

When we scaled his furniture in the apartments, the beds were 1500mm long.

He got a D for his “Excellent interpretation of the brief”.

That student is a well known architect today, he had an early grasp of how it all works, something that I never had the stomach for.

8
HiddenDragon 6:59 pm
07 Mar 16
#

“The developers’ glossy presentations present a wonderful example of a new building in the universal CAD-Modern style. The building could be anywhere.”

I sometimes wonder whether this style of building – and the dismal black/grey/white/cream colour schemes which typically go with it – are part of a cunning plan to increase the sales of licit (and, perhaps illicit….) consciousness-altering substances by driving the inhabitants to distraction with the relentless monotony of it all.

“It has little relevance to the Canberra environment, is of limited aesthetic value and will do near to nothing to address the complex climate change issues that impact on residents. There’s a few token trees squeezed onto the perimeter – the whole thing will increase the heat island effects – and there is no double glazing, solar and breezeways.”

And I thought our passionately climate-concerned Government was making a big push for “climate wise” buildings – that priority must be on the manana list.

9
Masquara 7:49 pm
07 Mar 16
#

Paul Costigan said :

A footnote to this story – and there are many more

One amazing aspect of this is the tender as put out by the LDA/directorate insisted that the development included a full supermarket (what choice there?) and Aldi – and the tower of apartments.

So the LDA/directorate ensured that there was no green space on this block and that we ended up with something that towers over the rest.

And – how many developers submitted a tender? ONE. I think that says it all about what the other possible developers thought of the tender process – or was that they way it was always meant to be?

There are many stories around this one – great for future researchers on governance.

One tenderer for a major development with ACT Labor in charge? And no consideration for green space, pedestrian comfort, solar “rightness”? Yep – that’s the Corbell- Barr – Rattenbury triumvirate we all know so well. Are the units still being sold off the plan to unwary Chinese investors who are unaware of Australian living standards and don’t know that we expect bedrooms to have windows, but the Barr-Corbell-Rattenbury triumvirate have been quite happy to consider substandard accommodation for Chinese students?

10
wildturkeycanoe 5:54 am
08 Mar 16
#

gooterz said :

Where will China town move too?

Like the Mr. Fluffy houses, China Town will have to be purchased at well below market value by the government, surrounded by hire fencing, covered in shrink wrap, demolished carefully, subdivided, sold at inflated market prices to developers and turned into medium density dwellings. How else are they going to handle both the asbestos problem AND increase tram patronage?

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