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The time is ripe for Woden’s renewal

By Chris Steel MLA 3 March 2017 27

Woden Valley

Canberrans should be aware that – despite negativity from some quarters – there is a growing optimism about Woden Town Centre’s future.

As a long time resident of Woden, the community opposition to a proposed six-storey residential development at Curtin Shops didn’t surprise me.

While MLAs rightly have no direct role in development approvals, it was pleasing to see the independent ACT Planning and Land Authority (ACTPLA) process working as it should and rejecting the proposal. The development was inconsistent with the Government’s Draft Master Plan, which proposed two storeys around Curtin Square as part of a lower scale urban village.

It occurred to me throughout the debate at Curtin, however, that the scale of the development and investment proposed at Curtin would be welcomed just down the road in Woden Town Centre.

While Canberra’s economy is diversifying, we’re still reliant in many ways on the Federal Government. It’s upsetting Woden has been so hurt by Federal Government decisions, including the recent announcement of up to 250 jobs to go at the Commonwealth Department of Health. These cuts are symbolised by the Alexander and Albermarle buildings as well as the now virtually-empty Lovett Tower.

Woden cannot rely on public servants for its future, and needs further private and government investment to kick start urban renewal. One of the reasons I stood for election last October was to help in delivering this investment into rejuvenating Woden.

I’m pleased to report from my conversations in the community over the last few months that a sense of optimism about Woden’s future is returning. The ACT Government has moved an additional 1,000 public servants into Woden, which will be complete in the next couple of weeks. There have also recently been completed upgrades to the Woden Bus Interchange and Phillip Oval, as well as ACT Government support for the new Abode Hotel in Juliana House, an adaptive re-use project.

Another catalyst for renewal will be the investment in light rail stage two to Woden – contracts will be signed for this within this term of government. Light rail is already bringing renewal to Northbourne Avenue and it will do the same to Woden.

Light rail will have more people live close to public transport and services, enliven Woden’s public spaces, and provide demand for local business, which benefits the whole community. More people living in town centres is also an opportunity for quality design and development to take place, and keep the open spaces and low density in our suburbs that make them such great places to live.

It’s also encouraging to see the sale of a half-stake in Woden Plaza by Westfield to Perron Investments for $335 million in December. I’m hopeful this sale foreshadows upgrades to Woden Plaza. The last substantial upgrade was in the 90s and, despite a fondness for the Plaza by many locals, upgrades would be welcomed.

Surrounding suburbs in Woden Valley are thriving. They are sought after for home buyers, with well-planned communities, an abundance of parks, good schools, Canberra’s major hospital and a growing cafe culture.

It’s important to distinguish between development at Curtin and at Woden Town Centre. Woden has a completed Master Plan, providing clear guidance for developers and height limits consistent with a Town Centre setting. I get a strong sense from the community they want urban renewal to take place in Woden Town Centre.

That doesn’t mean just any development should happen. Urban renewal also means demanding quality design and construction, rather than just accepting monoliths. Recent developments like Hindmarsh’s Bellerive and Trilogy Apartments have seen improved architecture – of course, this is a subjective view.

While the ACT’s planning processes are generally very good, there are some limitations. The planning process fails to reach many people in our community – like young people and working families – who have a legitimate stake in consultation. Chief Minister Andrew Barr has already raised this concern publicly.

While the planning process offers the community some input into development, this can be late in the process. In this sense, consultation during the master planning process for Woden was a much more strategic, constructive discussion. These types of discussions I think yield much more value to our community in the longer term.

The master planning process should not stop at the point ACTPLA publishes the final plan. I believe delivering the Woden Town Centre’s Master Plan’s objectives should be the source of ongoing discussion between the Government, planners, developers, business and the community.

I’ve proposed to the ACT Government we host a roundtable to discuss the delivery of the Master Plan and start better communication between all stakeholders about planning, urban renewal and transport in the Woden Town Centre.

In involving all parts of the community, I believe this roundtable will help turn plans for Woden’s future into a renewal that benefits all Canberrans.

What are your ideas to improve Woden?

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27 Responses to
The time is ripe for Woden’s renewal
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rommeldog56 4:43 pm 23 Mar 17

Chris Steel MLA said :

Today it was great to welcome the Chief Minister’s announcement of an ACT Government hosted Roundtable to focus on renewal of the Woden Town Centre. Announced during question time in response to questions by ACT Labor members, the Roundtable will form part of a Pop-Up Cabinet to take place in Woden in mid-2017.

Great to see a local member actively representing and engaging with their constituents. Well done.

Now, can you please have a quiet word with ACT Labor MLAs representing Tuggeranong/Brindabella ? Perhaps they can come out of hibernation and model their representation on yours…….please……thanks.

PS : This does not need a response in support of your colleagues, Mr Gentleman & Ms Burch. Its just an observation/comment/request/statement.

Chris Steel MLA 3:40 pm 23 Mar 17

Today it was great to welcome the Chief Minister’s announcement of an ACT Government hosted Roundtable to focus on renewal of the Woden Town Centre.

Announced during question time in response to questions by ACT Labor members, the Roundtable will form part of a Pop-Up Cabinet to take place in Woden in mid-2017.

More here:

crackerpants 7:11 am 08 Mar 17

As a long time “local” (husband and I have worked in Woden for over 15 years) we’ve seen a fair bit of change, which lately has been of the decay variety. Watching the “construction” on the other side of Furzer street, my colleague’s theory was that it was indeed a training ground for heavy machinery operators. I would LOVE to see a running track there, maybe an outdoor gym…but given that Alex/Albemarle have drawn in vandals from far and wide, it might be short-lived.

Of more substance though, I think there needs to be a lot of thought given to basic infrastructure, rather than focusing on “vibrancy” in the face of ongoing access issues. I’m said on this page a few times that attention needs to be given to better linking Woden centre and the Phillip business district. Phillip has really picked up the pace over the last few years, with gyms, yoga studios and dance studios, and cafes to complement those. Afternoons and Saturday mornings see a steady stream of gym-goers attempting to cross Botany street west of the roundabout, and parents and little kids taking their lives in their hands trying to cross east of the roundabout. There are no crossings the entire length of Botany street.

Getting across Hindmarsh, while it looks formidable, is serviced by pedestrian lights at intersections.

Once in Woden, Corinna St is similarly difficult to negotiate west of Ball St – where the carparking is. People usually dart across Corinna St, walk up the bank, jump down into the carpark, then walk through it to the mall. This whole area either side of Hindmarsh could be made so much more accessible for foot traffic (and much safer), linking the two areas. This will help set the scene for the “vibrancy” to follow.

Benjamin Rose 7:14 pm 06 Mar 17

HiddenDragon said :

I trust that proposals for further development – particularly residential – along Callam Street will take careful account of this –

Already accounted for years ago. That’s why there’s a huge stormwater channel (a concreted section of Yarralumla Creek) there not to mention the flood-resistant architectural design of Callam Offices by architect John Andrews with the 1971 floods in mind.

Robert Issell 5:46 pm 06 Mar 17

Good work Chris for following up with issues affecting the Woden Valley.

It will be great to see the results of your representations for improvements in your Electorate.

Urban renewal is important at some stage in every suburbs timeline however maintaining and looking after what we already have is equally important.

A good maintenance program for our streets, parks, gardens and facilities should also be an important part of urban life.

Good luck with your efforts Chris.

HiddenDragon 5:43 pm 06 Mar 17

I trust that proposals for further development – particularly residential – along Callam Street will take careful account of this –

bj_ACT 11:35 am 06 Mar 17

JC said :

Rachel Ziv said :

I would definitely welcome an upgrade to the shopping precinct in Woden! It surprises me how busy it gets, yet compared to the Hyperdome it definitely lacks some of the major players in retail. Given the location, increase in local workers and upgrades to transport I don’t see why it wouldn’t become a CBD in its own right in the coming years.

I am confused. What major retail players at at the Hyperdome and not in the Plaza? If anything would have said the opposite was true. The Hyperdomes doesn’t even have DJ’s/Myer department store anymore. It (Hyper D) is more like a country town or group centre style mall.

I’m with you JC. I think “Ivan’s Fashions at the Hyperdome” is about the only type of shop Woden Plaza doesn’t cover. Maybe include the Communities at Work second hand clothes shop that is inside the Hyperdome to give people an idea of how well the Hyper D is trading.

No good having both a Kmart, Big W and Target at the one centre, when you don’t have a David Jones or Myers.

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