15 April 2021

Tired Manuka needs some government love, says Renaissance developer

| Ian Bushnell
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Barry Morris and Farzad Emami at topping out ceremony at Renaissance Manuka

Morris Property Group director Barry Morris (right) and project manager Farzad Emami (left) at the topping out ceremony on the roof of Renaissance Manuka. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Developer Barry Morris has called on the ACT Government to inject some funding into Manuka shops to spruce up its tired public spaces as construction continues apace on private sector projects that should help restore the precinct to its former glory.

Mr Morris was speaking at the topping out ceremony for the first stage of Morris Property Group’s $300 million 414-unit Renaissance project on the site of the former Stuart Flats public housing complex in Light Street, behind St Paul’s Anglican Church.

Morris Property Group bought three of the four former public housing blocks from the ACT Government in 2019.

Mr Morris, whose company developed Manuka Plaza 20 years ago, said the area needs rejuvenation.

“We’d like to see the ACT Government start putting some more dollars into refurbishing the public realm because it is tired and needs some work,” he said.

Mr Morris said this project would live up to its name and bring new life to the Manuka precinct by eventually housing about 1000 people within walking distance of Manuka shops.

The entire project will deliver the 414 units across eight buildings, with the first stage comprising 93 of them.

Stage 1 experienced unprecedented demand and was 92.5 per cent sold, with only a handful of three-bedroom, one two-bedroom and two one-bedroom apartments remaining for sale.

It is due to be completed in August 2021 with residents moving in the following month.

Most of them will be older Inner South residents looking to stay in the area and enjoy the amenity it provides.

Mr Morris said the days of Canberra people retiring to the NSW South Coast no longer holds true as they seek city services and amenities and choose to stay near children and grandchildren.

Renaissance Manuka under construction

Construction of Morris Property Group’s Renaissance Manuka. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

And the amenities they want are more than just cafes and restaurants, he said.

“The days of ‘let’s go down the coast’ have changed significantly in more recent times as people want to gravitate back to an urban environment – a city environment with services and facilities, health and welfare,” said Mr Morris.

The original 100 units allowed on the site was reduced to 93 after some buyers purchased multiple units to have more space and had them redesigned into bespoke single, larger apartments.

“What we found was people are wanting to replicate their home in Forrest, Red Hill or Griffith in apartment living,” said Mr Morris.

“Some of those things are unrealistic, but where we can we design one on one with people to deliver the home they want – the home of their dreams for the last stage of their lives.”

The two other stages of Renaissance include a smaller, four-storey boutique development of 30 units on Stuart Street, and Morris Property Group’s second major build-to-rent project of 282 units across six buildings fronting Captain Cook Crescent, which will meet the strong demand for rental accommodation in Canberra.

The slab will be laid for Stage 2 this week, and the project is expected to be completed by March 2022.

Stage 3 will be delivered progressively from late-2022 to 2023.

It was a tough year for Morris Property Group in 2020, which had to defer or reassess projects due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Who would have thought we’d be here in April 2021 topping out a project,” said Mr Morris.

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Has Mr Morris resolved his conflict with the ACT govt, and repaired the severe cracking in his Kingston Place unit blocks yet?
Are the supports still around the building to keep the ceilings up?
Would be interested to hear from any owners or tenants in those units.

It is becoming increasingly apparent the ACT Government does not have enough money to do anything properly.
I think, ultimately, the ACT will have to be handed back to NSW, with only the Parliamentary Triangle and a few other nationally significant places remaining under Federal Government control. Even now, Canberra and its suburbs would be much better off being run by (a) competent NSW Council(s)!!!

There are almost 130 Councils in NSW, and most of them do a much better job with municipal services than the ACT Government.
Surely you’re not defending the ACT Government’s poor effort at property maintaining Canberra?
Canberra has never looked so shabby.

“There are almost 130 Councils in NSW, and most of them do a much better job with municipal services than the ACT Government.” Got any actual evidence to support that? You are making comparisons to what Canberra used to be like, so clearly have been here long enough NOT to have experienced most of the NSW local government areas.

Knowing people who actually work for NSW councils, hearing about the issues they experience and reading the numerous stories, does not fill me with your level of confidence.

I am certainly not going to write that the ACT Government is perfect, but the solution to that, cannot be adding an third tier of government. You actually want a local council, a Sydney centric NSW Government and the Commonwealth? Just what we need, more Government!

And so do the equally old Kingston shops. Both shopping centres have long standing nominations to be included on the ACT Heritage Register that have not yet been assessed and decided.

Why is Morris always calling on the ACT Government to pour funds into areas where he is making millions and millions of dollars out of multi storey unit development?

It’s about time Morris put his hand in his own pocket not into ours.

There’s parts of Tuggeranong and Belco that haven’t seen a cent for two decades. He should do some development in the run down parts of these areas and that would actually make me listen to his calls for ACT Government funding.

Peter Curtis4:41 pm 18 Apr 21

I cannot agree more.

Didnt they put their hand in their pocket to the tune of $50 million or so? The ACT government gets the land revenue and whatever fees they charge along the way.
Shouldn’t the ACT government spend a bit of that money in the area?

Yes razor it’s a good point. Agree there are pockets of Tuggeranong and Belconnen that could do with some ACT government dollars from their land sale earnings too.

That might incentivise some developers to improve the housing options in these struggling areas. The cosy relationship between the ACT government and developers seems very focused on money making areas of the city, not on increased housing options for the entire city.

Geocon and whoever just developed a whole heap of units in the outer areas, they (and others) paid millions towards government revenue as well. Last I looked the Belconnen and Tuggeranong foreshore areas were getting substantial investment. Maybe not all of Belco has been fixed up recently, but they’re getting something.
What has the Manuka area had done by the government? Is anything even in the pipeline? Alot of revenue going in and not coming out.

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