20 July 2021

Study to identify potential urban infill along light rail Stage 2B

| Ian Bushnell
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An artist's impression of light rail Stage 2B along Adelaide Avenue

An artist’s impression of light rail Stage 2B along Adelaide Avenue. Image: ACT Government.

The ACT Government is turning its eye to the development of the light rail corridor to Woden and Mawson, commissioning an urban infill study to assess the type of potential buildings and appropriate levels of density for areas adjacent to the line.

It has contracted Sydney urban planning and development advisory firm Mecone to conduct the Light Rail Stage 2B Urban Infill Capability Assessment.

Light rail Stage 2B initially was slated to terminate at Woden, but the Labor-Greens Parliamentary Agreement includes a term to assess the viability and benefits of extending the line to Mawson as part of the business case.

Mawson is one of five regions in the study area, including the section of the North Curtin horse paddocks acquired in the West Basin land swap with the Commonwealth.

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The study will also look at West Deakin, the Phillip/Woden Town Centre, and although Yarralumla is not specifically named, it will also take in the “rest of the corridor”.

The line will run along Adelaide Avenue into Yarra Glen to the planned Callam Street Interchange in Woden and then along Athllon Drive to Mawson, if that leg is viable.

The contract says the study will identify opportunities for ”orderly urban intensification” and guide the choice of ”appropriate built urban forms, dwelling diversity and density” for future development.

This is to be done at the precinct level and areas within the precinct, not on a block-by-block basis.

Mecone is expected to produce three scenarios for each area showing the potential for residential and employment growth to 2046.

One scenario should assess the unrealised development capacity of each precinct under existing planning rules, and two scenarios should identify and propose future residential and employment development opportunities based on ”sensible and demonstrated planning grounds”.

The assessment will cover zonings, density, building heights in the light of amenity, liveability, overshadowing and access to open space.

Light rail Stage 2B study area

Light rail Stage 2B assessment study area. Image: ACT Government.

It will identify areas suitable for targeted urban renewal, such as vacant land, surface car parks and underutilised land, and new open space areas or corridors.

The government wants to know the opportunities for mixed-use centres close to potential future light rail stops, and maximising pedestrian and cycle access from new developments to the future stops.

It also wants to know what changes will be needed to the planning rules and zonings, as well as policy levers to guide future development and redevelopment with a particular focus on ”high quality, sustainable urban housing outcomes” and jobs growth.

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Mecone will tell the planning directorate what it will need to consider in response to future development, such as expanding existing schools and community facilities.

A separate study will look at the capacity of existing infrastructure but Mecone’s work will contribute to it.

Light rail is being pursued in the context of the government’s state aim of a more “compact and connected city” and concentrating development close to the city centre, town and group centres and along key transit corridors.

The high-density development along Northbourne Avenue is being driven by light rail and is a strong economic byproduct.

“An important challenge in planning for urban intensification is to balance the scale of development and redevelopment whilst also protecting the existing positive character of areas and amenity of residents in established suburbs,” the contract document says.

It also highlights the need for more medium-density housing, known as the ‘missing middle’.

The study will also contribute to the City to Woden Planning Framework and may also be used to prepare the new Districts Plans and the Stage 2B light rail business case.

Mecone will deliver a final report by 5 October 2021. It is being paid $132,000.

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John Kerry Tozer4:10 pm 21 Jul 21

Since most of the land (to about Carruthers Street, at least) isn’t Territory Land, Woden had better get ready for a lot of spartments!

Finally Relented2:27 pm 21 Jul 21

Need to take care and be thoughtful. Way, way back, before the tram was a glint in the eye of anyone (maybe), it was said Flemington road should not be an apartment/unit corridor but a mix. Look at it now.

That’s simply not true. Flemmington Road, well north of Mitchell at least was built with the specific intent of being a high density commuter corridor with high density housing along the road itself with density dropping as one gets away from. Flemmington Road. Basically as it is today.

The roadway was also designed and built with light rail factored into the road design. That is the reason the median was as wide as it is and why Flemmington Road run right into the centre of the town centre when most major roads generally skirt town centres.

Even more amusingly this was all done under the last Liberal Government we had in the ACT with Kate Carnell as chief minister and Tony De Dominico as the planning minister. A developer by the name of Bob Winnel (Villiage Building Co) was the one pushing it.

As much as I don’t like liberal governments amazing one had such foresight.

Someonesmother1:45 pm 21 Jul 21

More underhanded deals with slumlord developers, great. Ugly concrete urban infill along a whole route of Adelaide Ave to woden. Far out time to sack the Minister who keeps approving these eyesores.

Bit of trivia. The minister doesn’t generally approve anything. That’s done by public servants running to planning policy.

The minister only usually gets involved when development become controversial for some reason or where the rules or zoning need to change.

Good stuff! Some people reacting like they’re paving over Namadgi Nation Park. This is a transit corridor linking the CBD with a major town centre, through the geographic centre of the city… utilise it and build up not out!

Capital Retro9:58 am 21 Jul 21

You are right that it is already a transit corridor and a very efficient one at that so why can’t they leave the trams out and do the urban renewal infill now?

By the way, I notice that there is now a sign at the commencement of the Adelaide Avenue T2 lane allowing “emission free vehicles” to use the lane. How many more concessions are they going to give the wealthy virtue signalers?

I agree, as long as overshadowing is taken into consideration of existing places. Compensation could be offered in some cases. Urban densification should happen along the rail routes, both to make this viable, and to provide places convenient to public transport for people.

I seem to remember you said you don’t catch buses, so how do you know this?

I have been on a bus stuck in traffic on Commonwealth Avenue Bridge that wasn’t moving because of traffic. We were half an hour late into Woden. But those who don’t catch buses would never experience this. The only way a bus to Woden could be efficient is to take one of the lanes across the bridge and give it for exclusive use of buses. Then you will complain about that.

Multi-story apartment blocks coming to every green space along the route. Say goodbye to distant scenes of snow capped mountains and horses grazing on paddocks. Farewell to the trees. The playing fields, gone. The Greens/Labor/Geocon/Tram consortium is coming.

I agree, as long as overshadowing is taken into consideration of existing places. Compensation could be offered in some cases. Urban densification should happen along the rail routes, both to make this viable, and to provide places convenient to public transport for people.

Won’t someone puhleeze think about the equestrians!

Somehow my reply is to the wrong comment.

thoughtsonthesubject11:37 pm 20 Jul 21

The government seems blissfully unaware that we live in the Covid age and that compact cities are no longer the urban ideal. As has been well demonstrated in Melbourne and Sydney, Covid thrives in high-rise apartments. Or, to go to extremes, compare the percentage of Covid deaths per population in places like Manhattan and Canberra.
The latter has been heralded as the only successful example of a decentralized city in Australia. When scientists tell us that we will have to learn to live with Covid and its variants, it would surely be wise to keep Canberra that way.
A recent survey in Melbourne has shown that every 5th person is toying with the idea of moving out of the city. The rapid rise in house prices outside cities has shown that many are no longer toying with the idea, but turning it into reality.
Under these circumstances the attempt to turn Adelaide Avenue into a replica of Northbourne Avenue with regard to high-rise buildings, seems totally out of date. As it is, the population of the Inner South will rise considerably: the Brickworks precinct development and that of Forestry Place is projected to increase Yarralumla’s population by 75%, the Red Hill development will also see that suburb’s population rise, while plans for the Eastlake Urban renewal next to Kingston have mentioned some 9,000 additional residents.
The proposed light rail extension from Civic to Woden will not provide transport within walking distance for the residents of these new urban centers. Rather than burden taxpayers with the two billion dollars required for the light rail extension, it would be wise to use funds for providing the necessary infrastructure, including rapid transport by electric buses for these new developments.
Urban planning does not appear to be a strength of the present government.

Woden Valley Community Council10:05 pm 20 Jul 21

Densification is more than increasing the housing supply. It is a balance between homes, jobs, sunny (green) public spaces and cultural and recreational facilities. There needs to be an equitable distribution of community facilities across Canberra – located in our social and economic hubs that are accessible by public transport.
We need to preserve our bush capital and ensure we plan for schools and health services as the population grows.
The public transport system needs to get us to where we need to go in a reasonable time without multiple changes.

“Bush Capital” Hah!

Canberra is already our second most densely populated capital city (at least according to Wiki). It is just behind Melbourne.

I suppose our government is hoping to take that crown from Melbourne and make us the densest capital in Australia.

Canberra is not the 2nd most densely populated capital city, the Wikipedia figures are not correct (Surprised? Haha).

Good to know.

Can you please point me to a more accurate source.

And please feel free to update wiki.

Population densities for different statistical areas can be found on the ABS website.

The problem with using gross densities for cities is which specific areas do you include in the denominator?

For example, the metropolitan areas of Sydney have extremely high population densities, but as you get further away from the city, there are significant amounts of rural and forest/national park land that if included makes the population densities of the city seem far lower than in actuality.

It’s far more useful to use the smaller statistical areas to get a true picture of population density from a spatial and planning perspective.

I agree with some of your points Chewy. Canberra is a really weird and unique city spatially. Cities like Copenhagen that the government often compares us to has the population of Canberra in just its densest few square kilometres. Our Urban footprint is over 350 square km. Even at our current high population growth rate, it would take us hundreds of years to match the current population of the cities we are warned against becoming, such as Sydney or Melbourne.

The huge empty land reserves such 1. Black mountain/ O’connor Ridge, 2. Red Hill/Issacs Ridge, 3. Mt Taylor/Farrer Ridge cut massive empty swathes through Canberra making road and public transport design challenges different to many cities our size.

There was a lot of merit in the Y Plan promoting the majority of residents to live/work/educate/play in their own town centre. The shift from a polycentric city to has been driven by politicians, accountants and property developers NOT by skilled urban planners.

So Canberra is less dense than Sydney if you ignore the areas of Sydney that are less dense than Canberra and only choose the bits that are more dense because it is inconvenient to include the large rural and parks areas in Sydney.


No Sydney is more dense than Canberra if you don’t try to fudge your figures by comparing apples and oranges or use incorrect numbers like Wikipedia has. Also by the by, LOL at using Wikipedia as a source.

Honestly, I can’t believe that people actually think Canberra is more dense than Sydney.

Sydney has 135 square kilometres of population density areas between 5000-8000 people per sqkm and 58 sqkm of more than 8000 people per sqkm.

Canberra has 1 in the 5000-8000 range and none in the very high range.

It’s not even remotely close.


HiddenDragon7:08 pm 20 Jul 21

In other words, if they can work out how to get across LBG, every possible dollar will be squeezed from every square metre of land anywhere near the line – because this thing is going to cost a fortune, and the ACT budget is already a fiscal time-bomb.

I’m sure they know how to build a bridge. That’s how trams will cross the lake. The same trams we have also regularly run serval KM on batteries too so lack of overhead wire won’t be an issue either.

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