The siting of the proposed Woden CIT student accommodation block has robbed the community of a potentially great public space, according to Woden Valley Community Council president Fiona Carrick.
For years the Council has been campaigning for a public park in the open space adjacent to the bus interchange, but the ACT Government has decided to co-locate the so-called Youth Foyer units at the western edge of the CIT site.
Ms Carrick said that while the Council supported the accommodation for vulnerable young people, the Youth Foyer could just as easily be co-located with the current Youth Centre on Callam Street and near the proposed Woden Community Centre.
She said it could be part of a service hub based around Woden Park that also provided the wrap-around services the 20 students would need, and they would be just as close.
That would free up space to expand the proposed West Plaza on the CIT site into a much bigger public space where community events such as markets, street theatre and live music could be held.
“We support the Youth Foyer wholeheartedly, however, there is a better site for it that is not in the middle of our potentially great public space that would provide for student and community life,” Ms Carrick said.
She said the CIT could be the anchor to the core of Woden but siting the Youth Foyer there limited the community’s opportunities.
It appeared as if the government was trying to fit too much into the space.
“It’s like they see a space and just plonk something in it,” Ms Carrick said.
She said many people in the community were asking why the government had chosen to put the Youth Foyer there.
Ms Carrick noted the other space proposed in the CIT plans, the North Plaza, was not big enough to become a vibrant public space.
She also believed the renders of the project showing a sunlit boulevard were misleading.
“It’s on the south side of a 26-storey building [Grand Central Towers]. It’s not going to be a warm, attractive place for most months of the year,” she said.
Ms Carrick was concerned that the government was trying to move the heart of Woden to the new bus and light rail interchange.
“It’s as if Callam Street will be the beating heart. No, it’s a bus interchange,” she said.
The lack of dedicated student parking was also a worry, especially if Westfield decided to go ahead with the flagged redevelopment of its nearby multi-level facility.
“How can they guarantee car parks when it’s not in their control,” Ms Carrick said.
“Not everyone can catch public transport. We need to make it as convenient and accessible as possible.”
The Council was concerned that the planning principles for a functioning town centre were being ignored, leaving its growing population without the community spaces and facilities it needed.
Zoning that allowed 28-storey buildings on the edge of the Town Square had already diminished that open space, Ms Carrick said.
The CIT designs can be viewed at the ACT Government’s YourSay website, where a survey can also be completed.
Construction is expected to start later this year and it is hoped that CIT Woden will welcome its first students in 2025.