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The City to Lake smoke and mirrors

By Paul Costigan - 27 July 2016 30

lake-burley

There’s been a load of positive mainstream press about the wonders of the ACT Government’s major project for the centre of Canberra, The City to Lake Project.

Till now I had not paid particular attention to the project beyond noticing the general spin that this development will bring many benefits to Civic. And there is no doubt that Canberra’s centre has become a struggle-town because of the heavy presence of the Canberra Centre Mall (that’s another story).

Recently the In The City group made a statement that questioned whether this development, being beyond Acton, would work against rather than for the rejuvenation of Civic.  I agree, as I have trouble seeing how new apartment towers along West Basin will do much for the Civic traders in and around City Walk.

Commercial opportunities would open up in Acton and West Basin to service these new residents. It would be a 25  – 35 minutes walk into Civic – not ideal for general day-to-day shopping – then there is the return walk with the shopping.  So most people would stay local and not make the walk into Civic. So that supporting argument does not hold up.

City-to-Lake-LDA

Meanwhile the In The City group has been staging the Winter Festival events along City Walk as part of their strategies to get people into Civic. They were successful in getting people in and around the food stalls and other staged events (we did enjoy some great samosas) – and people were flowing from there into the mall.

So again, the mall was the major beneficiary from these events while I doubt whether there was much residual benefit for the smaller traders. Are such events appropriate for the places such as City Walk? They would be much better staged within an open space set aside for such events – such as along West Basin.

west-basin-P1190465

So what is happening with West Basin? To deal with this question, I read through the available online information and looked through the web site of the opposition to the project – The Lake Burley Griffin Guardians.

To assist this research I placed a large map of the area on a separate screen to assess the validity of the benefits being claimed – especially those relating to enhancing the main shopping areas of Civic.

Both the City to Lake Urban Design Framework and The City Plan (2014) have loads of spin but contain little evidenced based arguments. What is proposed for the lakeside is definitely not appropriate and despite the rhetoric will only deliver benefits for the government and the developers who are let loose to build more toaster style apartments along the foreshore, as they have at The Kingston Foreshore.

There are statements within the proposals for the need to do something with the under-utilised and underdeveloped green spaces along West Basin. I agree but totally reject the solutions as proposed by the current government.

When you look at the maps of the area, it does not take long to see that there are more than ample opportunities for apartment developments north of Parkes Way, including along Constitutional Avenue. And as we are now witnessing, apartments are popping up all over the place across the inner north. This is generally a good thing  – with the usual concerns about this government’s lack of attention to the quality of the build and how they address climate change and sustainability.

The City to Lake  – West Basin project is another example of a government being out of touch and uncaring about the amenities that make Canberra a wonderful place to live.

There is no doubt that no apartments or residential thingys should be built south of Parkes Way anywhere along the foreshore. None.

lake-foreshore

As for connecting Civic to the foreshore, forget the super expensive folly of lowering Parkes Way. The solution is simply to build more pedestrian and bicycle bridges and have these connect the enhanced parklands back to the urban areas around the new apartments. Some overhead pathways could be linked to upper decks of the new apartments or parking stations along the north of Parkes Way.

New-Acton-Bridge-P1190500

There is no doubt that the Lake Burley Griffin foreshore green spaces should be enhanced.  There is a need for some serious landscape developments along the West Basin foreshore, from Commonwealth Bridge to the Museum of Australia.

West Basin should have more purpose built activity areas such as a very large (tourist attracting) permanent garden dedicated for Floriade (in spring). The same garden area could host a different garden festival at another time of the year.

Yes – let’s move Floriade to West Basin and stop damaging Commonwealth Park trees.

The Lake Burley Griffin Guardians are correct in their advocacy. I would like to see more suggestions from them about what should happen with these fabulous foreshores and green spaces. I do suggest everyone should avoid any archi-park suggestions.

west-basin-P1190457

There are lessons to be learnt from other so-called ‘master planned’ redevelopments. I happen to know several people who were enthusiastically involved in the very early planning for Kingston Foreshore given the high priority that was to be placed on sustainability and good design. The same people soon departed once they witnessed such principles being seriously watered down to suit the priorities of other forces.

Similarly the Dickson master plan was published with loads of enthusiasm about the benefits. For a short time most people saw this as a positive thing. Any notion of planning has since been set-aside with the government’s push for the proposed supermarket monolith that is no more than an inappropriate plonk development.

Sadly I have to say that the City to Lake Project is looking more and more like hoax being foisted onto the residents under the guise of yet another infamously ‘vibrant’ development  that would somehow help solve Civic’s woes. This connection to the future of Civic is a fabrication to cover up aesthetic and environmental destruction.

So far it seems that the mainstream press has accepted the government’s press releases. The press has not spent any time looking at the detail with the result that the message is that people would be foolish not to embrace the government’s view on the City to Lake Project. The press is wrong – again.

Those foreshores have always been precious. Yes they may be seen as underdeveloped, undeveloped (by developers) and maybe even vacant for much of the time. But they should not be sold off. They should be enhanced and cherished.

Once gone – they will never return for public use.

west-basin-P1190486

The Lake Burley Griffin Guardians are correct on this. I encourage them to be even more vocal. I also encourage others such as the NCCC to be far more vocal in opposition. This project could deliver a serious loss to Canberra and its standing as an attractive city.

There are clear links here to the questionable process by which so much of the city’s urban development is being handled by the current Chief Minister and his bureaucracies.

I will return to this topic several times as it is a complex given the players involved and the money to be made by certain interest groups and individuals. I am also developing a view that putting a large stadium in Civic could be a big mistake.

Watch this space.

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30 Responses to
The City to Lake smoke and mirrors
A_Cog 1:21 pm 01 Aug 16

Barr is destroying exactly what it is that makes Canberra so lovely and liveable with more and more development, everywhere across our city.

If we wanted to live in Sydney/Melbourne/Brisbane, we would have stayed there.

Such a shame.

rommeldog56 10:57 am 01 Aug 16

Nilrem said :

I had a little read of the documents available that give some idea about what is going to be done with this area. In the “Existing Place Conditions” it goes on about how the car parks create urban heat islands and increase run-off, plus they don’t maximise the value of the land. The last bit to me reads “Doesn’t generate enough revenue for the government”, so you can already see the writing on the wall, meaning a sell-off to developers to create more “world class public domain and architecture that is bold and inspiring and awarded for its authenticity, integration and diversity.” What exactly does this statement mean? It means high-rise, c$!ppy looking buildings like the Nishi apartments, which will make the west basin a cold, dark, concrete cycling highway instead of the nice green boardwalk it is now.
Was there not just an article on here recently asking how to “green” the Kingston foreshore development, now that it has been turned into a Gareema Place-like business district? Most all developments that pretend to be friendly to the environment and blend into the existing feel of nature, do the opposite, suck all the life out of the area and turn it into the “heat islands” that they are trying to avoid. Just look at Emu bank for example. Google maps shows a nice grassy shoreline between the Arts Center and the old Police boat ramp. Once you go to street view and see the current configuration, it has all turned to cement pathways, which make for a much hotter walk in summertime. We are not Sydney Harbour, we are the bush capital. Why the insistence of trying to look like all the other major cities in the country and the world? People don’t go to LBG to experience more urbanisation, they go there because it is a quick way to get out of the multi-story rat race and enjoy the lake, the greenery and the animal life.
No matter what spin they put on it, developing the West Basin is really only about money, nothing else.

Sounds like u fit the profile and need to take the advice from creative_Canberrian in post 8, *You’re part of Canberra’s past Paul, if you want greenery, but admit it’s more about familiarity, then pick a shady spot in your garden. It’s time to stop standing in the way of Canberra’s progress.”. Either that, or those who have a different view of the development and infill of Canberra just need to get a frontal lobotomy to see the light ??

chewy14 10:36 am 01 Aug 16

Nilrem said :

I had a little read of the documents available that give some idea about what is going to be done with this area. In the “Existing Place Conditions” it goes on about how the car parks create urban heat islands and increase run-off, plus they don’t maximise the value of the land. The last bit to me reads “Doesn’t generate enough revenue for the government”, so you can already see the writing on the wall, meaning a sell-off to developers to create more “world class public domain and architecture that is bold and inspiring and awarded for its authenticity, integration and diversity.” What exactly does this statement mean? It means high-rise, c$!ppy looking buildings like the Nishi apartments, which will make the west basin a cold, dark, concrete cycling highway instead of the nice green boardwalk it is now.
Was there not just an article on here recently asking how to “green” the Kingston foreshore development, now that it has been turned into a Gareema Place-like business district? Most all developments that pretend to be friendly to the environment and blend into the existing feel of nature, do the opposite, suck all the life out of the area and turn it into the “heat islands” that they are trying to avoid. Just look at Emu bank for example. Google maps shows a nice grassy shoreline between the Arts Center and the old Police boat ramp. Once you go to street view and see the current configuration, it has all turned to cement pathways, which make for a much hotter walk in summertime. We are not Sydney Harbour, we are the bush capital. Why the insistence of trying to look like all the other major cities in the country and the world? People don’t go to LBG to experience more urbanisation, they go there because it is a quick way to get out of the multi-story rat race and enjoy the lake, the greenery and the animal life.
No matter what spin they put on it, developing the West Basin is really only about money, nothing else.

Nice green boardwalk? The area is mostly a group of horrible carparks and the abomination that is the container village. And of course people don’t currently go to the lake to enjoy urbanisation, because other than Kingston Foreshore there isn’t any.

You personally may not like them taking up a tiny amount of the lake foreshore for this but many other people want something more than it currently is. Cafes, restaurants and yes apartments to pay for the upgrade of the area. The lake itself is not a natural feature, if you’re so anti development, perhaps you’d like the area returned to the river it was only 50 odd years ago? Or maybe you could utilise the other 20+km’s of lakefront to enjoy the animal life and greenery?

Postalgeek 6:47 pm 30 Jul 16

Masquara said :

Paul getting his facts wrong again. There was never going to be any towers in this development, only things of a Kingston Foreshore scale. And anyone who has seen the Foreshore, or the Docklands in Melbourne, will know how good redevelopments can be when done right.

The Foreshore might be a shining example of redevelopment for some, but for others, less so – pedestrian pinch points, dangerous cycle lanes placed in an ongoing dooring zone on the left and cars coming out of car spots on the right for hundreds of meters, and a bizarre misalignment of a pedestrian crossing on Trevillian Quay Rd with the main pedestrian thoroughfare to name a few of the bodgy efforts to cater for Canberrans passing through.

wildturkeycanoe 10:28 pm 29 Jul 16

I had a little read of the documents available that give some idea about what is going to be done with this area. In the “Existing Place Conditions” it goes on about how the car parks create urban heat islands and increase run-off, plus they don’t maximise the value of the land. The last bit to me reads “Doesn’t generate enough revenue for the government”, so you can already see the writing on the wall, meaning a sell-off to developers to create more “world class public domain and architecture that is bold and inspiring and awarded for its authenticity, integration and diversity.” What exactly does this statement mean? It means high-rise, c$!ppy looking buildings like the Nishi apartments, which will make the west basin a cold, dark, concrete cycling highway instead of the nice green boardwalk it is now.
Was there not just an article on here recently asking how to “green” the Kingston foreshore development, now that it has been turned into a Gareema Place-like business district? Most all developments that pretend to be friendly to the environment and blend into the existing feel of nature, do the opposite, suck all the life out of the area and turn it into the “heat islands” that they are trying to avoid. Just look at Emu bank for example. Google maps shows a nice grassy shoreline between the Arts Center and the old Police boat ramp. Once you go to street view and see the current configuration, it has all turned to cement pathways, which make for a much hotter walk in summertime. We are not Sydney Harbour, we are the bush capital. Why the insistence of trying to look like all the other major cities in the country and the world? People don’t go to LBG to experience more urbanisation, they go there because it is a quick way to get out of the multi-story rat race and enjoy the lake, the greenery and the animal life.
No matter what spin they put on it, developing the West Basin is really only about money, nothing else.

rosscoact 1:50 pm 29 Jul 16

“Meanwhile the In The City group has been staging the Winter Festival events along City Walk as part of their strategies to get people into Civic. They were successful in getting people in and around the food stalls and other staged events (we did enjoy some great samosas) – and people were flowing from there into the mall.

So again, the mall was the major beneficiary from these events while I doubt whether there was much residual benefit for the smaller traders. Are such events appropriate for the places such as City Walk? They would be much better staged within an open space set aside for such events – such as along West Basin.”

Are you really suggesting that The City Group, funded by CBD businesses, to do CBD promotions, do those promotions outside the CBD? Words escape me.

creative_canberran 1:24 am 29 Jul 16

Another note. The head of “Lake Burley Griffin Guardians” doesn’t live in Canberra, or even the ACT. She is a NSW taxpayer, living out in the sticks, trying to lecture the ACT on how to develop as a modern city.

creative_canberran 1:20 am 29 Jul 16

Paul getting his facts wrong again. There was never going to be any towers in this development, only things of a Kingston Foreshore scale. And anyone who has seen the Foreshore, or the Docklands in Melbourne, will know how good redevelopments can be when done right.

Paul must be a very slow walker if it takes him 25-35mins to go from West basin to Civic. I do it in 10-15mins. But yes, it can be a hassle to walk in the rain or with shopping, so isn’t it excellent the government has a free bus loop now!

No one said City to Lake would fix Civic, and many have warned in the near turn it will increase the pull away from Civic. But it all has to be part of a harmonious and long term vision extending from Black Mt, up Northbourne, and east to Campbell that will liven up the whole centre.

Development by the lake was part of Burley Griffin’s plan. It was numb skulls in the NCDC and its prior authorities that sanitised the lakes and lead to dead patches of little activity, just like between Commonwealth Avenue and New Acton. Luddites have always stood in the way. People of Paul’s age protested loudly that building Parkes Way to connect the Tuggeranong Parkway and altering the shape of West basin to do so would be a planning disaster. They opposed any development around the lake below Black Mountain. Just imagine that, making all of Tuggeranong take a detour north before turning back behind Black Mountain to get to the City.
Opposition didn’t make sense then, and Paul’s makes no more sense now.

And what’s ironic is Paul suggests building another huge park in West Basin, to duplicate an already under-utilised and under-maintained park less than 10mins walk away!

You’re part of Canberra’s past Paul, if you want greenery, but admit it’s more about familiarity, then pick a shady spot in your garden. It’s time to stop standing in the way of Canberra’s progress.

wildturkeycanoe 3:01 pm 28 Jul 16

Ian said :

Big meeting at Hughes on this tonight. Very clear that issues of connectedness with Civic and poor quality of facilities on the foreshore don’t need a major real estate land grab by developers or the reclamation of a chunk of lake. The LDA is dressing this up as a planning solution when its really a realestate development. A motion by Jack Waterford asking for an ACT ICAC was passed.

An ICAC into the government and the LDA was passed by who exactly? Any real expectation that this could ever eventuate, before the first rail tracks are laid? I cannot see anyone being able to stand up to this government, least of which being a “community group”. Even they themselves can’t put a stop on developments with all the data in the world condeming their own plans as undoable.

TOF 9:32 pm 27 Jul 16

Big meeting at Hughes on this tonight. Very clear that issues of connectedness with Civic and poor quality of facilities on the foreshore don’t need a major real estate land grab by developers or the reclamation of a chunk of lake. The LDA is dressing this up as a planning solution when its really a realestate development. A motion by Jack Waterford asking for an ACT ICAC was passed.

Masquara 6:20 pm 27 Jul 16

As always, the ACT Government fails to make its online information available to the visually impaired. Not one page of the information is in accessible format. The accessibility wave tool won’t go past the first heading.

chewy14 5:19 pm 27 Jul 16

“I don’t like it”

This could be the author’s motto about any development proposal that doesn’t include monstrous amounts of unfunded improvements for current residents of those areas. Increasing density is for other people, in other areas. Not everyone wants to live the kind of lifestyle you want to live.

And it takes you 25-35 minutes to walk 1-1.5km?

Paul Costigan 12:21 pm 27 Jul 16
pajs 12:19 pm 27 Jul 16

“I will return to this topic several times”. Please don’t. Once was enough.

And “Constitutional Avenue”…

So long as people have free access to the water’s edge, I’m all for developing some of the areas around the lake. It’s under-done and is one of the best assets the town has going for it. Wouldn’t mind seeing a houseboat development in one of those basins, now that I think about it. Maybe a floating Chinatown to make up for how bad a job Dickson has done of the one we have now…

rommeldog56 10:20 am 27 Jul 16

There was a news report this morning reporting that an ex boss of the NCDS (of 9 years standing) has attacked the ACT Labor/Greens Govt City to Lake plan/project. He was reported as saying that the ACT Barr Gov’t was deceitful in its dealings and promotion about this project, was depending on the land sale to balance its budget and that this project represented environmental vandalism. Strong words.

There is certainly a need for a ICAC style body for the ACT or alternatively, put the ACT Lib’s in and let them find out what has really been going on on ACT Labor/Greens Govt decision making and deals behind the scenes.

How much longer can this poor planning, poor fiscal priority setting, links to clubs/Unions/Developers and the general incompetence continue and ACT voters/Ratepayers apparently remain apathetic about it ????

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