23 January 2023

Young-at-heart retiree Judy Costello welcomes community proposal for Gungahlin Homestead site

| Katrina Condie
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Woman standing among flowers

Retiree Judy Costello has welcomed a proposal to develop an innovative retirement community on the 36-hectare Gungahlin Homestead site. Photo: Liv Cameron.

Campbell resident Judy Costello is looking to downsize, but she doesn’t want to live in an apartment, and she’s definitely not ready to move into an aged care facility.

The former public servant says there aren’t many options for younger, active retirees in Canberra, so she’s thrown her support behind Urbanistik’s proposal to develop a high-end retirement community on the old CSIRO research site in Crace.

Judy was invited to provide feedback on a proposal to construct a mix of low-maintenance apartments, independent living units and high-care units on the 36-hectare Gungahlin Homestead site, which she described as a “really innovative solution”.

“It’s a whole different way of looking at retirement living,” she said.

Judy says the proposal will “feel like a village with lots of facilities, but it won’t feel like an aged care place”.

“A development like this is really needed in Canberra, especially for active retirees that are single or living alone in big houses after losing their partners.”

Judy enjoys gardening, travelling and socialising with friends, and she says the cottages proposed for the village would cater for her interests while also providing secure, low-maintenance living.

She likes Urbanistik’s concept of building a “mini-suburb” with a supermarket, cafes, parks and cul-de-sacs of eight to 10 homes, each with its own small yard. The neighbourhoods would share a village green, herb garden and compost bins.

“The idea is to create small communities within the village where everyone can get to know their neighbours but also remain independent and have their own space,” Judy explained.

“Residents would have their own home within a managed environment where everything is taken care of by a one-stop-shop concierge service.

“If your oven blows up, the concierge will arrange a tradesperson to come and repair it. If you want to travel, they’ll keep an eye on your home and arrange for pets to be looked after.

“It’s a great concept focusing on easy living and enjoying life.”

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Many older single women struggle to maintain their homes, and Judy spends a lot of time chasing tradies and waiting for work to be carried out. It’s time that she would rather spend with friends.

“It’s tiring. I just want to live my life, travel, and get out in the garden without the pressure that comes with looking after a large home and yard,” she said.

“But, unless I buy an apartment or move to an aged care facility, there aren’t a lot of options for me in Canberra.

“I love my neighbours, but I don’t want them living on top of me in a unit complex. And I want to grow my own vegetables, herbs and roses, so a small yard is ideal.”

Gunghalin Homestead

The historic Gunghalin Homestead would be retained under the proposal. Photo: Dalice Trost.

Judy says, without the kind of community proposed for the site, many younger retirees choose to leave Canberra and move to the coast to make the most of the laid-back lifestyle. But, at the same time, they leave behind family and friends, as well as the city’s medical services.

Urbanistik’s community concept aims to encourage residents to socialise, with a proposal to convert the historic Gungahlin Homestead into a community facility.

“I’d love to see a little IGA, cafe, restaurant or gin bar in the beautiful old building,” Judy said.

She would also like plans to include a community room for exercise classes and a hydrotherapy pool to help keep residents active and healthy.

Judy said, ideally, residents could be as involved in their community and do as much, or as little, as they like. If the community gets the green light, she’d be keen to establish a heritage rose garden on the property using cuttings from the gardens of Old Parliament House.

Parks and green spaces make up a huge part of the proposal, and residents would be encouraged to park their cars at home and walk to facilities. There are also plans to have communal vegetable gardens, chicken coops and compost bins to reduce waste.

“It would be built for people to walk everywhere and meet people. Travelling, problem-solving, speaking to people, and exercise are all things that help better aging,” Judy said.

Shuttle buses to the University of Canberra medical precinct and the Belconnen town centre are also on the drawing board.

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Under the proposal, the developers do not plan to subdivide the iconic site; therefore, homeowners would not own the land their homes were built on.

Judy likes the thought of paying an all-encompassing fee to cover leasing the land and electricity, water and even internet costs.

“Who wants to spend time paying bills when someone can do it all for you?” she said.

Urbanistik general manager development Clare Gilligan says the community would meet the needs of Canberra’s active retirees but retain the site’s character.

“The plan is to keep the property intact and respect the trees and heritage values of the site,” she added.

The Urbanistik proposal is expected to be considered by the National Capital Authority in the coming months.


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High end community living? Not to mention that warm and fuzzy feeling of getting to know your neighbours! Couldn’t think of anything worse. Like my neighbours’ snappy dogs, I hope my snarl says it all!

As an active semi-retiree, it mostly sounds like a good plan. The bit I object to is the “high-end’ bit. Not only the ‘high end of town’ have active retirees looking for a similar solution.

ChrisinTurner1:29 pm 26 Jan 23

The idea of multiple cul-de-sacs is brilliant. Has the ACT limit on building cul-de-sacs been lifted?

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