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Canberra’s Boutique Real Estate and Property Management

Tower blocks to march across the green belts?

By johnboy 6 April 2010 22

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In the Canberra Times today that champion, in my opinion, of big developers John Thistleton is heroically trying to pre-empt a National Capital Authority review of the green corridors that separate Canberra’s satellite towns.

The dream of developers is apparently unfettered construction on the city’s ridgelines, without even constraint on height (although with all that new land flooding the market expensive high rise construction wouldn’t make a lot of economic sense to builders, more likely to see mcmansions).

I think we can safely say that the distinct characters of Gungahlin and Tuggeranong are not going to be sung by the bards for generations (at least not in a positive way).

And who loses? A few dog walkers, a couple of mountain bikers (advised no doubt to head to Stromlo), half a dozen bird watchers (no doubt vocal in the letters pages).

Balance that against thousands of desperately needed new homes and a major release of pressure on the rest of the housing market. To say nothing of the transport and infrastructure benefits of greater urban density.

So it wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing.

But it would mean we’d have to abandon the increasingly tattered conceit of Canberra being a "Planned City".

Rather it would become even clearer that we’re a city with staged embuggerances forcing sub-optimal construction at any given time.

Perhaps better to just zone up the land and let the buyers and sellers work it all out?


What’s Your opinion?


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22 Responses to
Tower blocks to march across the green belts?
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Ryoma 10:40 pm 11 Apr 10

Moneypenny (gasp!) – I never thought about that angle on things. Back to the drawing board…

Just kidding. Either they can stay there but do it from residential addresses, or Mitchell is another possibility.

To be honest, I am sure the sex industry will find a way 😉

moneypenny2612 10:40 am 10 Apr 10

If Fyshwick was re-zoned as (part) residential, I suspect the brothels would be required to move elsewhere.

Where would all the tourists go if Fyshwick is no longer a by-word for sex?

Ryoma 7:00 am 10 Apr 10

Thanks Tempestas, it’s good to feel appreciated :). I think your idea of the government having a say of %6 of the completed units is a good one too, but I think something like it is already being done occasionally.

However, as usual I got to the post far too late (10.30pm) and as a result the conversation has moved on :)! But it does make me think many people are concerned about what the future holds in this city.

Another thing I forgot to say was, why isn’t residential conversion of warehouses and the like allowed in Fyshwick, the way old industrial suburbs in Melbourne (Richmond) and Sydney have developed? It beats them sitting there empty, and Lord knows we have enough office space.

Tempestas 9:26 am 08 Apr 10

My vote is for Ryoma post #18 to be responsible for planning. I too fear that the govt doesn’t have the bollocks to take on the vested interests. There is the potential to maintain the bush ridges and have higher density whilst not banishing all public housing to outer suburban hell permanently. How about a tender system like suggested and then the “cost of the land” is returned to the govt not in cash but in it choosing say 6% of completed units for public housing.

There could be many ways to enable developers to make a profit and the Canberra population to have a better city.

Ryoma 10:22 pm 07 Apr 10

p1 – “If density is what is required to suit your agenda (whether that is for public transport, available housing, or simply a love of tall buildings), then release Molonglo, require that the town centre area only have medium to high density housing, and allow the building of bigger towers in the other town centres.

I would rather civic be replaced with skyscrapers and all the bush ridges remain untouched then the other way ’round.”

I agree completely 🙂

Sepi, I think the public transport/density arguments work on the basis of fixed costs. The key to better public transport is frequency, something we only currently have on the trunk bus routes. When our suburbs sprawl, buses have to cover more ground to pick up the same amount of people, and yet the cost of running them remains the same or rises. When you get a more compact city, the number of people at any given point able to choose to catch the bus is higher, meaning that the balance between costs and revenue is better. This provides the ability to invest in better infrastructure or frequency, and (in theory at least) creates a virtuous circle. What Canberra considers to be high density housing is nothing short of laughable on a world scale.

And PirateMonkey has hit the nail on the head – “Sadly the government will simply not risk the possible voter backlash of lowering the value of property owned by those who have already bought into the housing market.” I agrre that Northbourne Avenue could be far better serviced with housing (which would dramatically help to fill the bus routes), but beyond this are the properties in places like Reid, Turner, O’Connor and Braddon.

These are lovely suburbs (I know, I live in one of them) but just because these places are old does not mean that they should be museums able to escape the changes needed by the city as a whole. Not every house is worthy of heritage listing. These places are inner suburbs with good facilities and need to accept that they can and should be supporting far higher densities, including towers of more than 4 stories high.

That would help us to stop repeating suburban disasters on good agricultural land, assist the small businesses in the CBD, and help to turn Canberra into a city with real housing choices. If you want to be where the action is, you could live near the CBD. if you have kids and need more space, you can live in the outer suburbs. If elderly, you can live either near the city, or near the town centres, where facilites are within walking distance. And all of us could enjoy the green belts that make Canberra special 😉

The Griffin plan is a good idea but needs to move with the times. And we need to have a conversation about intergenerational equity: is it either fair or sustainable that the next generation is being priced out to the furthest suburbs, and have to spend a higher proportion of their incomes travelling back in?

This requires a citizenry who are willing to accept some measure of becoming an urban city with its own character (and the pluses and being truly urban entails, such as noise), as opposed to being a giant suburb full of car parks.

It also requires a government with the guts to take on powerful vested interests – certainly not this one. If they were serious about this stuff they would be buying inner suburban lots and changing the zoning to allow more apartments. They could then turn to developers and say – here is a site we are going to put to tender. Show us what type of housing you can build on this site, and we will negotiate a price with the winning developer to build what they have shown. There may be subsidies needed, but we (ACT taxpayers) would get more diverse housing and save money elsewhere.

deye 12:32 pm 07 Apr 10

and speak of the devil an 18 storey unit tower has been proposed for Civic.
http://www.canberratimes.com.au/news/local/news/general/18storey-civic-unit-tower-proposed/1796161.aspx

Piratemonkey 10:31 pm 06 Apr 10

As has been said put suburbs in Molonglo so people can have their big blocks then just start upping the density around civic.

Along Northbourne from Dickson to just before Braddon there is only a handful of low density apartments. If the government sold off all the public housing along Northbourne there they could build 20 times the number of dwellings and it would still look empty. Selling off the land to developers would easly cover the cost of putting all the displaced peoples into real homes. This could be repeated in so many places whether it be decrepit shops, car yards or nasty old public housing. The possibilities are endless.

Canberra has plenty of space for many, many more dwellings. There is no need to open up parkland. Sadly the government will simply not risk the possible voter backlash of lowering the value of property owned by those who have already bought into the housing market.

bd84 9:15 pm 06 Apr 10

Well there is a finite amount of land to be developed in Canberra, there is still a number of suburbs in the Gungahlin area that are yet to be built, as well as the new Weston Creek suburbs.

In some respects there is a good case for developing the corridors of the city, but I don’t think there is a need for huge high-rise buildings there. I have no doubt if someone put enough thought into the developments, they could create high-density housing without destroying the “bush capital” setting.

Still comes down to the Government providing the land, having the builders for the jobs and the cost of such developments.

Special G 3:39 pm 06 Apr 10

indigoid said :

Urban density brings noise, however, and long-term Canberrans may find that rather difficult to cope with. Sydney is louder everywhere. I’ve grown accustomed to it and actually have trouble sleeping in quiet places like Canberra. Weird.

This is obviously the selling point in your arguement.

If we are throwing suggestions out there why not expand the ACT West and chuck in some more development there. Molonglo was mentionsed (17 suburbs) and there are plenty more to go in Gungahlin.

Not enough builders to finish those off with some sort of quality so why give them more.

p1 3:12 pm 06 Apr 10

As long as they get rid of the contaminated dirt (From High Voltage radio transformer PCB Oila, and asbestos cement buried on site)

Actually, they were moving truckloads of soil to a place out near Windellama for a big chuck of last year.

sepi 2:26 pm 06 Apr 10

What exactly are they talking about? Mount ainslie is one thing, but the horse paddocks of Deakin etc are another.

One problem is, currently there is room for an extra lane of road next to Yamba drive. If they build zillions of apartments all along there, in order to facilitate large numbers of people for public transport, then suddenly you ahve all these extra peopole/cars/buses, and you’ve removed the capacity for wider roads.

it is also a bit funny for people to suggest greater capacity for public transport in the ACT, when the current bus system is overrun with patrons and unable to provide any more buses.

Danman 2:10 pm 06 Apr 10

random said :

Not all of the existing green spaces are attractive or usable: I’m glad that they’re filling in that site on Ginninderra Drive with Lawson. There’s a bunch of other bleak grassland around that only seems to be used by kangaroos and occasionally cows.

As long as they get rid of the contaminated dirt (From High Voltage radio transformer PCB Oila, and asbestos cement buried on site)

God forbid GE are contracted for the contaminated waste removal.

Even still, I would not be comfortable living on site.

deye 11:33 am 06 Apr 10

p1 said :

I would rather civic be replaced with skyscrapers and all the bush ridges remain untouched then the other way ’round.

Agreed

54-11 11:27 am 06 Apr 10

You’re right, JB, Thistleton does give the developers a free run in the CT.

I’m reluctantly in favour of some infill, provided it is done well. What puts me off time and again is the way in which new developments that have the potential to be something special end up being absolute bollocks. The high rise in Woden is just one of so many examples. Too much of Gunghalin is another.

What seems to happen is that all the good intentions turn to crap as soon as the developers get hold of it.

So, until such time as we have genuinely high-quality design, then I would oppose this. When necessary controls and processes are in place, then I would think differently.

random 11:12 am 06 Apr 10

Not all of the existing green spaces are attractive or usable: I’m glad that they’re filling in that site on Ginninderra Drive with Lawson. There’s a bunch of other bleak grassland around that only seems to be used by kangaroos and occasionally cows.

p1 10:45 am 06 Apr 10

If density is what is required to suit your agenda (whether that is for public transport, available housing, or simply a love of tall buildings), then release Molonglo, require that the town centre area only have medium to high density housing, and allow the building of bigger towers in the other town centres.

I would rather civic be replaced with skyscrapers and all the bush ridges remain untouched then the other way ’round.

dvaey 10:13 am 06 Apr 10

luther_bendross said :

I think development of these corridors would be a good idea for Canberra. It would open up public transport routes and maybe give everyone a bit bigger block of land. Yes, some people like the open areas, but I think they’re really limiting progress.

If you want to live in a progressive area, feel free to move to south/east Queensland. Ask the residents who have lived on the Gold Coast for 50 years, how much their quality of life has changed since development started.

Danman said :

So the bush capital will then be the umm err The Capital….

Even if we had skyscrapers and monorails and all that jazz, people would still think of Sydney as the capital. If people want to live in a city full of mass-transit and skyscrapers, Sydney is just a couple of hours up the road, go move (and develop) there instead, and leave Canberra the way it is.

indigoid 10:11 am 06 Apr 10

This would not bring usefully greater urban density such that Canberra would need to make public transport economical and effective. To do that you would need a lot of apartment buildings.

FWIW my Sydney (Hurstville area) home is a cheap (~35% less than the rather dated 2br duplex a friend just moved into in Deakin) 2br penthouse apartment in a street that is pretty much all apartment blocks, and there is greenery galore — probably more trees in one short street than in all of that horrible new bit of Macgregor. Quite pleasant, and fairly close to everywhere I like to go regularly in Sydney.

Urban density brings noise, however, and long-term Canberrans may find that rather difficult to cope with. Sydney is louder everywhere. I’ve grown accustomed to it and actually have trouble sleeping in quiet places like Canberra. Weird.

Danman 9:47 am 06 Apr 10

So the bush capital will then be the umm err The Capital….

There is mass appeal about having urban nature parks in Canberra, lets leave it how it is.

DeadlySchnauzer 9:33 am 06 Apr 10

Uh.. a small problem. Most of these green belts are protected areas under Parks and Conservation control. I’m sure developers would love to build McMansions on Mount Ainslie looking out over the lake (million dollar views etc)… but it ain’t gonna happen.

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