20 May 2020

Student apartments only for Woden CIT's multi-storey campus, says Steel

| Ian Bushnell
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CIT tall option

The tall option for new CIT campus at the Woden Town Centre. Image: ACT Government.

Private or social housing is unlikely to be a part of the proposed new Canberra Institute of Technology campus in Woden, says Minister for Tertiary Education Chris Steel.

Speaking at the launch of concept designs for the new campus, Mr Steel said any housing component in the development, which will either be a tower or a more compact structure, would cater for students.

”I’m not ruling residential out,” Mr Steel said. “If we did do residential it would be supporting people who were studying at the CIT campus, but not general residential.”

That appears to be a shift on the government’s position in February when it announced the proposed development on the site of the bus interchange and former police station next to Westfield Woden. Then, apartment options included releasing stock to market and/or affordable housing choices. An indoor sports facility was also being considered.

The proposal is for the new public transport interchange, including future light rail, to be integrated with the new 20,000 square metre CIT campus but the location and the size of the site has come in for criticism from the Woden Valley Community Council.

The government has offered two designs in its community consultation on the development: a tall, stacked option which provides more open space, and a massed structure that is not as high but has less open space.

CIT not-so-tall option

The not-so-tall, broader option. Image: ACT Government.

The ACT Government wants to hear from the community, students and business on issues such as building heights and layout, green space ratios, connectivity to local facilities, integration with public transport and sustainable design features, such as green roofs and garden podiums.

Mr Steel warned that there would be trade-offs that the community was going to need to grapple with.

The development is constrained by the half-hectare size of the site, although Mr Steel said that once the bus interchange is demolished next year for the new transport hub to be built on Callum Street more space will be available.

He said that a range of sites had been considered but this one offered the opportunity to redevelop the north-east of the Woden Town Centre and solve a problem that had bedevilled it for years – what to do with the empty space where the police station had been.

”It’s an opportunity to completely re-imagine this north-east side of the Town Centre,” he said. ”We’ve got new community facilities to be built on the other side of Callum Street, a new interchange and now the CIT. It’s an opportunity to bring those things together in a properly integrated way.”

CIT CEO Leanne Cover

CIT CEO Leanne Cover at Woden: ”Our requirements are going to be very specific around those specialised facilities for students.” Photo: Ian Bushnell.

Likening the area to a concrete jungle, Mr Steel envisages more open spaces and a central pedestrian boulevard connecting Woden Town Square with the CIT, providing a campus feel despite the relatively small footprint.

”There are some really great examples around Australia of polytechnics and other tertiary institutions like RMIT in Melbourne where there are space constraints but they are still able to provide fantastic spaces for students to learn, and also community and public open spaces,” he said.

CIT CEO Leanne Cover said the site’s advantages included the redeveloped transportation hub but also the integration with Woden precinct businesses so students could blend their work and study.

But she would not say which design – tall or compact – she preferred.

”Our design preference is for what is going to work best for vocational education and training,” she said. ”It’s very hands-on, very technical. Our requirements are going to be very specific around those specialised facilities for students.”

Woden Valley Community Council president Fiona Carrick said there was a lack of information about the proposal which continued to reflect an ad hoc approach to planning in Woden.

She said the better site would be the 1.5-hectare car park between the Hellenic Club and the bus interchange where human-scale buildings and sunny green space could be realised to build an attractive campus that would be of long-term benefit to the Town Centre and southside communities.

“The designs do not provide building heights,” she said. ”We are provided with an option of using the entire footprint for buildings around six to 16 storeys and sacrificing green space, or using less of the footprint for a building around 26 storeys and having shaded green space from the 26 storey buildings to the north and east.”

Minister for Tertiary Education Chris Steel

Minister for Tertiary Education Chris Steel with the design options for the CIT Woden. Photo: Ian Bushnell.

She said the perspective drawings did not indicate the scale of the buildings that could be built around the facility. The approved zoning allows 16 to 28 storey buildings that would overshadow the campus.

It was also not clear how many floors would be the CIT and what the rest of the building would be used for.

”There is no understanding of where the bus interchange will be or how the buses from many areas around Canberra will hub into the bus interchange. Similarly, there is no indication of where parking will go,” Ms Carrick said.

”There is no analysis, business case, discussion paper or options analysis within the framework of a social and economic strategy for land use in the precinct.

”There has been zero consultation on the selection of the site and we have no idea whether this is the best solution or a second rate solution; however, I suspect it is the latter.”

It was another example of the government deciding the outcome and then telling the community, Ms Carrick said.

She feared the process was about getting the community to accept a taller building than the current zoning allowed.

The CIT Campus – Woden: Design and Values Survey consultation is available via YourSay until Wednesday, 17 June.

The government says feedback from the survey will assist planners and architects prioritise various aspects of the project, helping shape future concept designs for the new campus.

Feasibility studies and cost analysis on these concepts will, in turn, inform the project’s business case which is due to be finalised mid-year.

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Thank you Woden Valley Community Council and particularly Fiona Carrick for your very constructive comments.
CIT and the Barr government appear to be continuing to do what they have always seemed to do and that is to confuse genuine consultation with announcements on things which have already been decided. Genuine consultation does not involve blindsiding stakeholders. Genuine consultation does not involve valuing the concerns of a favoured group of stakeholders and ignoring the concerns of others. Genuine consultation can sometimes involve the people making decisions to admit their mistakes or (quelle horreur!) accept the suggestions of others. Genuine consultation actually FEELS real and genuine! All parties leave the table feeling heard and valued and the people with power aim for win/win outcomes rather than win/lose. Genuine consultation never involves spin, subterfuge or arrogance.
CIT very clearly and loudly insist that staff adhere to Cultural Traits, one of which describes integrity. I’m not sure the community or the CIT staff are feeling the integrity lately, it is supposed to go both ways.

Woden Valley Community Council2:19 pm 21 May 20

Thank your for your constructive comment Arjay.
You may not be aware that it was our advocacy that brought about the commitment to the CIT in Woden in the first place.
As a Woden resident you are welcome to join the WVCC and influence its views about the future development of the Town Centre.

He won’t do that, he’d rather sit on the sidelines and snipe. People in Canberra are now far less engaged in community and volunteering than they were even just 20-30 years ago.

I’m not surprised the Woden Valley Community Council weren’t consulted prior to this announcement. I imagine the ACT Government wants to hear from actual Woden residents as opposed to a tiny, unrepresentative group that do nothing but complain.

100% ? I should have put some money on them grumbling about this.

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