8 March 2017

Ticket to ride - light rail - opportunities for business

| Suzanne Kiraly
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ticket to ride

I attended a presentation recently, hosted by the Canberra Business Chamber – it was an update on The Canberra Metro Light Rail Project from a business perspective and just as with the public information session I had attended prior to this one (you can read my report here), I left feeling quite impressed with what I learnt.

After a presentation by Kevin Brady (Canberra Metro Design and Construction Director), which was an update on progress made in Stage One – and much the same as my previous report, Lisa Morisset (who is the Program Manager for the Light Rail Business Link at the Canberra Business Chamber) offered some very interesting business information about the developers and the corridor property snapshot at this point in time.

This would be of great interest and relevant to businesses who may be considering opportunities that may arise as the project continues and nears completion.


Here are some key points re this development snapshot, given by Light Rail Business Link Program Manager, Lisa Morisset:

Canberra-based Amalgamated Property Group plans to build a 12-level office building in the city’s centre, tapping the ­strong demand for premium ­office space in the nation’s capital.

“Civic Quarter will be the new gateway to the CBD in Canberra, and as such we understand the importance of creating a landmark building that incorporates an elegant and timeless urban design which will meet the workplace needs of the future,” Amalgamated general manager Phil O’Brien said.

According to APG’s website, it is hoping to capitalise on tenant inquiry for modern towers in the CBD and Barton, which has amounted to about 90,000 sq m this year, ­according to Colliers International.

The project will occupy an ­entire city block, bordered by Northbourne Avenue and Mort Street, adjacent to the ACT light rail network and the Canberra Centre. It is also close to the food and specialty retail strip on Lonsdale Street in Braddon.

Construction this year will see it being ready for ­occupancy by mid-2019 (Cox Architecture and May + Russell Architects will design the first stage of the project).

Art Group

Local Canberra developer Art Group, purchased the first parcel of ACT Government land along the 12km light rail route since the $780 million project was approved.

The 2.9-hectare estate, with a half-kilometre Northbourne Avenue frontage south from the corner of Morphett Street, sold for $40 million in September 2016. Art Group plans a world-class mixed-use precinct.


The developer, at Midtown, HTI, has described the Light Rail project as a “catalyst” for their mixed-use precinct. Midtown will feature a 176-room Mantra Hotel, 26 apartments, office space and a range of cafes and restaurants, according to HTI director Adam Howarth and it will be located next to the Macarthur Avenue tram stop.

Midnight Geocon

Local developer GEOCON bought the site of the old NRMA building for $25 million, at the spot earmarked for Braddon’s sole light rail stop on the corner of Elouera Street. The brief for Midnight required a different approach to what Canberrans are used to on Northbourne.

It’s a site Geocon CEO Nick Georgalis described in an interview with the Financial Review in 2016 as: “the most significant development along the Light Rail route”. Midnight will be more of a mixed precinct again – an apartment complex, wrapped around a hotel, with a ground floor reserved for retail and hospitality, as well as a walk-through public space.

Designed by architects Fender Katsilidis (the same people who designed magnificent MONA and the award-winning Nishi at New Acton), Midnight will welcome light rail commuters and pedestrians; drawing the community into Braddon, allowing them to peek a little into the neighbourhood, and bring human activity to the sidewalks of this heavily utilised, but currently indifferent thoroughfare.

Georgalis explained: “The business of moving pedestrians from the rail line to their destinations has itself presented an opportunity to redefine the way each of us will interact with the new streetscape.”

Kamberra on Federal

The Kamberra site is a 12.5 hectare site located at the Federal Highway entrance to Canberra. It currently hosts the Kamberra Function Centre and the Palliative Care ACT Tom Elvin Centre, which is a public education facility. Kamberra on Federal is owned by the Elvin Group.

Kamberra on Federal aims to be a socially inclusive, sustainable and integrated urban village, that will showcase and offer its inhabitants the latest in environmental design, materials and technology. According to their website, Kamberra on Federal, could easily accommodate around 2,000 dwellings, comprising a mix of housing types suitable for all life stages and lifestyles. Kamberra on Federal is proposed to be a diverse urban village offering multi-generational living for a broad demographic (including ageing in locale for down-sizers).

Infinity Towers

In Gunghalin the approval of the landmark, 20-storey Infinity Towers project has encouraged a series of proposals to build similar, tall residential buildings from 10 up to 14 storeys.

Gungahlin Cinema Precinct

Gungahlin is also set to receive its first cinema with the construction underway of a 20,000 square meter entertainment centre and retail precinct due for completion by the end of 2018. The precinct has been designed by Cox Architecture, and is being developed by Gungahlin Lifestyle on the corner of Hinder street and Hibberson street. The centre will be focused on helping to increase night time activity in the Gungahlin Town Centre.


Tania Parkes Principal, Tania Parkes Consulting

There was further information from a local social planner, Tania Parkes, who presented some interesting research emanating from the US about urban renewal around similar Light Rail projects.

Here is a snippet of what Tania had to say: “Research from the University of Southern California into the retail impacts of new station openings suggests that new station openings are associated with increased retail employment around 8 km from the CBD, rather than near more centrally located stations.”

This, I found fascinating and if you’d like to follow it up too, you can connect with Tania on Twitter @taniaparkes

Todd Wright from Three Sides Marketing also had some interesting perspectives in his presentation and had the following advice re honing in on opportunities that will be created for businesses wishing to get involved in some way.

According to Todd: “There won’t be an influx of customers because of the Light Rail project. But there will be a new way that customers are moving, where they are interacting with our suburbs and precincts. There will be a new “movement” of people and the opportunity is for your business to move with it and work out how to innovate to take advantage of it.

There were business owners in the audience who were also keen to get involved in the project, mainly in the construction industry and businesses in the accommodation sector, but as the project develops, there are sure to be many, many more.

This is just a glimpse of what is to come and for my money, it’s a pretty exciting project that will transform this city in many ways. Urban renewal at its finest! Let us know what you think?

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Leon Arundell said :

Any news about Mitchell?
Last I heard, the proposed Mitchell tram stop had been shelved, because of the decision to locate a stop at Downer and Capital Metro’s determination to limit the number of stops. That meant that catching public transport from Dickson to Mitchell would mean either a 1 km walk from the Well Station Road tram stop, or riding the tram to Gungahllin and catching a bus back to Mitchell.

One km isn’t much for most people. I mostly rode a bike to work, but when it rained I caught the bus, which meant a two km walk from the bus stop to work. I enjoyed the walk and the exercise was good.

Leon Arundell11:48 am 10 Mar 17

Any news about Mitchell?
Last I heard, the proposed Mitchell tram stop had been shelved, because of the decision to locate a stop at Downer and Capital Metro’s determination to limit the number of stops. That meant that catching public transport from Dickson to Mitchell would mean either a 1 km walk from the Well Station Road tram stop, or riding the tram to Gungahllin and catching a bus back to Mitchell.

ChrisinTurner9:33 pm 09 Mar 17

Some of these projects are drawing a long bow to connect with LR.

I grew up in Bondi. I live in and love Canberra but please it doesn’t matter what the politicians call it they are TRAMS. I grew up in Bondi, I know a tram when I see it.

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